A videograb of the controversial decision | Courtesy: Highlander Brigade

A late goal against them and a referee blunder ensured that NorthEast United went down against Bengaluru FC in their first match of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season on October 8.

It was a heartbreak for NorthEast United FC as the events that unfolded in the last 5 minutes of the closely-fought contest ensured that the Highlanders return empty handed before their first home game of the season in Guwahati on October 13.

For Bengaluru FC, Alan Costa’s 87th minute goal meant the three points for the Blues. There was added drama soon after that as NorthEast United FC midfielder Jon Gaztanaga found the back of the net, but his strike was ruled out as offside by the match officials. Was it an offside? Snapshots, fans, netizens – across team affiliations – think ‘No!’

NorthEast United FC assistant coach Paul Groves attended the post-match press conference and felt there were plenty of positives for his team, despite a narrow defeat.

“I think you have to consider the whole 90 minutes. And certainly, with regards to how we played, the chances that we created, I thought we more than deserve to win the game. I think if you create that many chances against the team that perhaps got the best home record in the league, I think you come away very disappointed because of the fact that the goal was ruled out and that we didn’t convert some of the chances. But the players can be proud of what they produced tonight,” Paul Groves said.

He said that it will be difficult to single out a performance, but “collectively it was a good game”. “We controlled the game completely in the second half with a lot of possession and it was some speculative opportunities for them. Set plays are always going to create a problem for most teams and you have to deal with that,” he said.

The assistant coach said that his side will take away the positives from the game. However, he added that the team needs to improve in scoring as it is the “hardest thing in football”. “We will take the positives from the game. But I think the hardest thing in football is always to score a goal. If we create that amount of opportunities, we would like to think that we can take one of them. But that can happen sometimes and we have to just keep working to improve. We’ve had a preseason that was obviously well documented. So you know, it’s been a tough result for some of the players but they can be very proud of what they’ve brought on show tonight,” he said.

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