NorthEast United continued their unbeaten run in the 7th edition of the Hero ISL by defeating debutant SC East Bengal by 2-0 in a thrilling encounter at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Goa.
The first goal at the 33rd minute marked the 100th goal for The Highlanders in the Hero ISL which was an own goal by East Bengal defender Surchandra and substitute Rochharzela doubled up the scoreline at the 91st minute of the game from a counter.
Going into the game, coach Nus made four changes into his starting eleven; young goalkeeper Gurmeet was handed his first start of the season replacing injured Subhasish, Dylan Fox made way for Mashoor and Ashutosh came back into the starting eleven replacing Lakra. Whereas, Ghanaian Appiah started his first game upfront along with Sylla as the former came in replacing PM Britto.
The Highlanders started the game on an attacking note as right at the first minute Ninthoi made a run down the right-wing but his cross fell straight into the keeper’s gloves. It was then the opposition who were on the attack and on the second minute, Ashutosh got himself into the referee’s book with a yellow after his foul on Maghouma however the resulting free-kick didn’t cause any trouble to custodian Gurmeet. The following minutes saw SC East Bengal opening up on a couple of occasions however the defence led by captain Lambot made sure no harm was done.
As both the sides shared possession trying to open the score of the game, NorthEast had another chance at the 24th minute after as Appiah’s through ball down the right-wing was crossed into the middle by Ninthoi and was met by Machado but the Portuguese wasn’t able to put his shot on target. Going into the water break both the teams had a couple of chances but neither of the keepers was troubled in the process.
The Highlanders were able to break the deadlock just after the water break. It all started with a long ball whipped upfront by Ninthoi which was glanced on to Appiah’s path by Sylla and the Ghanian took on a couple of players before putting his cross from the right-wing which ricochetted off defender Surchandra’s feet and rolled into the back of the net. This goal was NorthEast United’s 100th goal in the ISL.
After conceding the goal the opponents tried hard to find an equalizer and get back into the game as they had their chances with back to back corners but the resilient defence of NorthEast dealt with the danger pretty well. As two additional minutes were added on at the end of the first half, East Bengal again had their chances from a few corners but this time Kwesi Appiah was at the other end of the pitch to help the team’s defence with a block right in front his keeper. As the referee blew his whistle for half-time, the Highlanders went into the break with the 1-0 lead.
Coach Nus made a cautionary change going into the second half as Ashutosh who was booked earlier in the first half was replaced by Provat Lakra. Just into the second minute of the half, Kwesi Appiah made an astonishing run down the right-wing before putting his cross in which was dealt well by the opposition defence. Just a minute later there was action down the left wing from Machado who cut inside and shot but his shot was blocked and the followup shot from Appiah was straight into the keeper’s hands.
The Highlanders had their next real chance at the 57th minute when Kwesi Appiah took his chance from the distance but he didn’t manage to connect his shot well and the ball went easily into the keeper’s gloves. The opposition kept pressing looking for the equalizer but there was no space left open in the defence by the Highlanders. At the 61st minute, Pilkngton had a go at Gurmeet’s goal but the keeper stood tall and had the shot parried away for a corner which didn’t was dealt well by Lambot’s defence. NorthEast then made two changes as Fox came in to replace Machado and Rochharzela replaced Mashoor. Both the teams shared possession but wasn’t able to break the defence at either end.
VP Suhair made his Hero ISL debut off the bench at the 78th minute as he replaced Sylla and just a couple of minutes later made a dashing run down the middle before seeing his shot blocked by the opposition defence. The referee added on 5 extra minutes at the end of regulation time and as the opposition sent numbers in front looking for a late equalizer and was caught in a counter and NorthEast was able to put the final nail in the coffin. VP Suhair made a brilliant run down the right-wing before putting his cross in which was met by Rochharzela at the far to slot it in and make it 2-0. The final few minutes saw East Bengal look for a goal but they were not able to do so and NorthEast United was able to take home another three points with a 2-0 win.
NorthEast will next take on Bengaluru FC on 8th of December at the Fatorda Stadium.