NorthEast United booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Durand Cup 2023 with a hard-fought win over Downtown Heroes FC. Second-half goals from Ibson Melo, Romain Philippoteaux & Parthib Gogoi helped the Highlanders become the second team to progress from Group D.
Juan Pedro Benali made six changes to his side from the 2-2 draw with FC Goa, handing starts to Ibson Melo & Nestor Albiach with Romain captaining the side. A sluggish start followed for the hosts & they fell behind to an opportunistic goal by Parvaj Bhuiya early in less than nine minutes. NorthEast United FC struggled to create concrete chances and ended the first half trailing 1-0.
The gaffer rung in the changes ahead of the second-half with Parthib Gogoi, Phalguni Singh & Dinesh Singh coming on. And the game turned on it’s head within the first seven minutes of the restart. Ibson netted the equaliser from close range in the 48th minute and four minutes later Romain danced his way into the box and slammed home into the bottom corner to put the Highlanders ahead.
NEUFC continued to dominate the half and the three points were sealed when Parthib emulated Romain in the 78th minute and showed excellent composure to score his fourth of the tournament.
The result sees NorthEast United FC bag seven points from their three group stage matches and will progress into the last eight as one of the two best second-placed teams.