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Football

ISL 2023-24: Overhauled by Juan Pedro Benali, NorthEast United FC set a new aura

With a revamp under the new CEO Mandar Tamhane, NorthEast United FC had a decent season, and the future is looking brighter than ever.

ISL 2023-24: Overhauled by Juan Pedro Benali, NorthEast United FC set a new aura
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NorthEast United FC players, led by their coach, Juan Pedro Benali, acknowledged the support of the crowd after an ISL match. (FILE PHOTO: ISL)

By

Aswathy Santhosh

Published: 11 May 2024 7:25 AM GMT

This year has been one to remember for NorthEast United FC after a few tough seasons. Last year, the Highlanders had a tough time, finishing last in the Indian Super League (ISL) with only five points from 20 games, their lowest ever. But this year, they have made a big comeback, climbing up to the seventh place, just missing the playoffs by one point.

The person responsible for this turnaround is their new CEO, Mandar Tamhane. When he left Bengaluru FC, NorthEast United FC owner John Abraham wasted no time bringing him on board. Tamhane hired a new coach, Juan Pedro Benali, and brought in some new foreign players. They also made changes to their Indian squad, letting go of some players and adding promising young talent.

Under coach Benali, NorthEast United commenced their season with a 1-2 setback, yet they showcased resilience with a remarkable goal from Parthib Gogoi. They swiftly rebounded by overpowering Chennaiyin FC 3-0. However, their momentum waned with a loss to Sergio Lobera's Odisha FC. Despite initially leading the charge for playoff qualification, they narrowly missed out on the mark. Nonetheless, they concluded their campaign on a high note, triumphing over Odisha FC 3-0 at home.

In the Super Cup, NorthEast United FC defeated Kerala Blasters 4-1 in the final game of the group stage, securing the second spot in their group with six points from three matches, trailing only Jamshedpur FC.

Under Benali's leadership, the team has been playing an exciting attacking style of football, scoring 30 goals in 22 matches. They have already made some positive moves by securing the coach and key players like Michel Zabaco, Nestor Albiach, and Mohammed Ali Bemammer. It is clear that NorthEast United FC is not satisfied yet and have already started their preparations for the next season.

Best moment of the season

Signing coach Benali undoubtedly stood out as the best moment of the season for NorthEast United FC. Such decisions can be transformative for a club's future, and Benali's appointment proved pivotal, showcasing his worth as a significant turning point in the team's trajectory.

Goal of the season

Gogoi's sensational strike against Hyderabad FC, a superb golazo from outside the box, was a moment of pure joy for fans. Nestor Albiach's brilliant pass set up Gogoi's impressive run, as he skillfully evaded a defender and expertly placed the ball past the keeper. This goal not only delighted spectators but also earned Gogoi the prestigious Fans' Goal of the Week award.

Player of the season: Mohammad Ali Bemammer

Among the contenders for NorthEast United FC's player of the season, Mohammed Ali Bemammer stands out as Mr. Consistent. The 34-year-old Moroccan showcased unwavering performance, featuring in all 21 games and securing a contract extension owing to his exceptional display. Bemammer's impact included a goal against Jamshedpur FC and impressive stats: 76 per cent passing accuracy, 8.8 ball recoveries per game, 1.7 interceptions per game, 2.2 tackles per game, and 2.5 clearances per game, reflecting his stellar defensive prowess.

Emerging player- Parthib Sundar Gogoi

Gogoi, at 21, is undoubtedly NorthEast United's emerging player of the season. While he began the season with remarkable goal-scoring prowess, his overall contribution to the team's progress is undeniable. Despite fluctuations in form, Gogoi showcased his talent with five goals and four assists in the ISL this season. Notably, he made history by scoring a hat-trick in the Durand Cup, becoming the first Indian player to achieve this feat in the season.

Season rating

NorthEast United FC demonstrated notable improvement this season. Despite falling short of playoff qualification, their progress and determination deserve recognition. They deserve 6 out of 10.

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