GUWAHATI: Ahead of his team’s 11th outing in the Indian Super League, Nelo Vingada wondered aloud in perceptible bewilderment about the plight of NorthEast United FC.
With the hope of qualifying to the knock-out stage dwindling fast, the experienced Portuguese coach was looking for that moment of inspiration that would get his side the win, which has eluded it for more than five weeks.
Vingada has not lost faith in his team’s ability saying that the results in the past few weeks do not indicate the real strength of his team, which he felt has played good football all through but could not convert chances in the right measure.
The “Professor,” as Vingada is fondly referred to, gave a lesson on optimism saying the Highlanders will come up with something special when the host takes on FC Pune City, here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Tuesday.
NEUFC, which is currently placed seventh with 11 points from 10 matches, has picked just two points from the last six matches, which included three straight losses at home.
Vingada’s optimism was renewed perhaps by the fact that his team picked up the last win (1-0) visiting Pune on October 12. With only four matches reaming, the host is looking for a turnaround in the sixth outing on home turf.
The last minute equaliser from Iain Hume that helped Atletico Kolkata force a 1-1 draw in the last match is still hurting NEUFC, but the coach insisted a win on Tuesday would get his side back in contention.
While the attack, with Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro (who is one among the current top scorers of the tournament) and Argentine Nicolas Velez, has played well in patches, injuries to three defenders like Brazilian Gustavo Lazzaretti and, Indians Robin Gurung and Nirmal Chettri is keeping the host on tenterhooks.
Pune, which beat Delhi Dynamos 4-3 in its last outing before climbing to the fourth spot with 15 points from 11 matches, is definitely one of the best outfits on current form.
The Stallions’ Spanish gaffer, Antonio Habas, felt the sides which hold to form and make the least mistakes in the home stretch will make it to semis.
The good form of Spanish striker Anibal Rodriguez, who scored a brace against Dynamos, will keep the visitors hopeful. With midfielders Mohamed Sissoko of Mali and Brazilian Jonathan Lucca giving good support to the attack, the visitors, with three wins in the last four outings, will look to reach the second spot by wrapping up another win.