Was It A Red? Deduce Yourself Says de Deus

Saturday, 16 December 2017|Vineeth Krishnan
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A tight game between the hosts Kerala Blasters and Northeast United took a definitive turn when the visiting keeper TP Rehenesh was harshly sent off just before the break. The Blasters who had been leading by a CK Vineeth goal already, hung on to the 1-0 scoreline as the Highlanders produced a spirited display despite being a man down for 50 minutes.

When asked on his opinion of the referee’s decision to send off Kerala-born Rehenesh, the Northeast United head coach posed the question straight back. “Why are you talking to me about the referee? What’s your opinion (on the red card),” asked Joao Pires de Deus.

Hearing that the few journalists actually at the after-match conference felt the covering defenders presence should have resulted in a yellow and not a red (even if the referee should first and foremost have played advantage, almost certainly leading to a goal) de Deus shrugged, choosing his words very carefully so as to not get docked for speaking out of line against a match official. 

“You have your opinion. I have my opinion. The referee have his opinion. I don’t want to speak about the red card because… then I will speak about this situation on the box of Kerala and I have to speak about two or three more situations. So let’s speak only about what mattered and that’s the game… (the team) had the same problem we have in previous matches and that is, didn’t score.”

Lamenting the team’s inability to convert one of their 9 shots on goal, 4 of which were on target, de Deus said he wanted to focus only on fixing this recurring problem in his side. Still you could tell the injustice of recent results (they had 17 shots in their previous game, a similar 1-0 loss to Bengaluru) is simmering in his mind. 

“The rest, the other things you will write about and speak, not me. I speak about we miss nine attempts to goal and we are frustrated because we have so many chances. We didn’t score and we lose a game we shouldn’t lose,” claimed the Portuguese coach, evoking what undoubtedly is the closest post-match Jose Mourinho impression the ISL is ever likely to see, unless his famed compatriot prefers to give India a go later on in his career.

The coach went on to praise the effort of his players, including the work ethic of his forwards who even if they are struggling to finish,  put in a real shift pressing the Blasters in their own third, fashioning chances even when down to 10 men. As de Deus pointed out, his team refused to get blown away like Pune did a day previously (in spite of having a lead when they lost Balwant Singh in the second period). Indeed, they did much better than merely hang on, giving as good as they got in the second half, leading to many nervous moments in the home dugout.

Kerala coach Rene Meulensteen acknowledged his nerves were jangling for much of the second 45. The longer the half went, it seemed more and more likely that the Highlanders would manage an encore of how Mumbai snatched a point, late in the Blasters’ previous home game. “I had three heart attacks in the last 10 minutes,” admitted a relieved Meulensteen after seeing his side notch up their first win of the season.

“We knew we needed that second goal. It wasn’t like weren’t trying, we were unlucky at times. Thara (Lalruatthara) hit the post, Courage was close, Jackichand was close. More than anything I’m pleased about the clean-sheet again. We worked very hard for it, we know how important it is and having conceded five in the last game, it was a real slap on the face,” added Meulensteen.

The Blasters coach also felt his opponents deserved praise for the way they fought in the second half despite being a man down. “I have to say, credit to the manager. I thought they were well organized. We knew it would be difficult to break them down and it took a quality goal to get in front. Credit to Northeast, they hung in there. But I’m just glad we managed to hang on to three points,” said Meulensteen.

The Dutch coach has been pleased by his side’s recent attacking displays saying they should have got more than the 1 and 2 they did against Mumbai City and Goa respectively. “We can open teams up. We are scoring now but more than anything we have won the first game. I keep repeating there is no better medicine for confidence to flow in the team than a win. I’m happy for the fans, to put a smile on everybody’s face.”

“The belief with us has never gone away. We know we’ve got good players who can play good football. We’ve come a long way in only two and a half months but for things to galvanize this is the best way to go forward,” said an ebullient Meulensteen, confident his team’s results will pick up now that they have got the monkey off their back with regards to the first win.

The former Manchester United assistant manager expressed his surprise and delight at Wes Brown being able to last the 90 minutes on an excellent debut. He also let on that it was Brown’s absence through injury so far that had seen him experiment with attackers Arata Izumi and Dimitar Berbatov in the defensive midfield role in previous games. The young legs of Siam Hanghal and Courage Pekuson complemented Brown well in central midfield and Meulensteen should be commended on a plan well thought out after losing Berbatov to a knock against Goa.