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ISL 2016: NorthEast United FC badly need Plan B after third loss on the trot

There is a debate about who said the words “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” first. Some attribute it to Clare Boothe Luce, who was a successful playwright and also among the first few female US ambassadors. Her 1931 novel Stuffed Shirts contained this quote. Some researchers have been able to locate this adage in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. Still some have claimed that an art critic named Leonard Thiessen uttered these words while examining the work of Charles Despiau.

There is undoubtedly some merit in those words, hence their appeal through the ages, and perhaps NorthEast United FC coach Nelo Vingada should’ve reminded goalkeeper Wellington Gomes of them before Saturday's match against Mumbai City FC.

Action between NorthEast United and Mumbai City FC on in Guwahati. ISL

Action between NorthEast United FC and Mumbai City FC in Guwahati. ISL

Goalkeepers have to keep things simple. There is simply no reason for someone standing between the sticks to have too many touches on the ball.

In the 45th minute of the match, Gustavo Lazzaretti sent a back pass to Gomes. Before progressing further, it must be mentioned that giving the ball back to the goalkeeper when two opposing attackers are lurking around the box is never the smartest idea. That said, the ball had reached Gomes harmlessly, and all he had to do was clear it out. Sony Norde pressed Gomes, and the home goalkeeper was forced to take a touch and then clear it out. For some reason, Gomes decided to take a second touch, and ended up pushing it back straight to Jackichand Singh who made no mistake in putting it in the back of the net. Simplicity is also and ultimately about focus, and Gomes lost it at that moment.

That one goal was enough to get Mumbai City FC the win.

Despite some good opportunities, NorthEast couldn’t find the back of the net, which is turning out to be a persistent problem this season. Halicharan Narzary wasted a straightforward chance by panicking at the last moment. Katsumi Yusa had set him up with a delicious through ball, but his left-footed shot did not even touch the outer net. Emiliano Alfaro also had a couple of great chances, but the first one was saved by Albino Gomes who did incredibly well and pulled off a blinder of a save from Alfaro’s volley, which was once again set up by Yusa. The Uruguayan headed over another chance from an inch-perfect Narzary cross. Albino is a goalkeeper every team would want, and he also ensured that there were no late blushes for his side when he made himself big against a Seityasen’s header in the second half.

NorthEast United, after an emphatic start to the season, now find themselves in a mini-crisis. In a tournament as condensed and compact as the Indian Super League (ISL), there is no scope for a “rough patch”. The Highlanders have now lost three consecutive matches and have been without a win for four matches. They have the worst form in the league at the moment, and the only reason they are not further down the table is their good early-season form.

Some people thrive under pressure, as do certain teams. NorthEast seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. When they had five matches within a fortnight - a ridiculously busy schedule for any football team - they managed to win three, and draw the other two. Since their scheduled relaxed, they have lost all three matches. They have all been narrow losses - by one-goal margins - but in the end, it's the points that matter.

With six matches remaining, NorthEast have time to finish in the top half of the table and earn a semi-final berth, which they have never done in the ISL. For that, Vingada needs to put on a managerial masterclass. Nicolas Velez and Romaric’s injuries are clearly hurting the side’s case.

There are another six days till their next match against the struggling FC Goa, and perhaps the coach will be rescued by the injured duo returning. However, in a short tournament like this, injuries shouldn’t be regarded as game-changers. Managers need to have an active Plan B, and a pragmatic and experienced coach like Vingada would be aware of this. At the moment, though, he is falling short.

Updated Date: Nov 06, 2016 11:59 AM

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