Northeast United 2-1 Kerala Blasters
KICK-OFF: Nov 23, 7.30PM (IST) (GMT +5.30)
Channel: Star Sports HD1, Star Sports 1, Star Sports 3.
Streaming: Hotstar, Jio TV.
Highlights: Click Here
Venue: Indira Gandhi Stadium, Guwahati.
Northeast United will look to avoid mid-table obscurity and get back among the play-off positions when they take on Kerala Blasters in Guwahati today. NEUFC haven’t won at home this season; their unbeaten run came to an end when they lost their previous home fixture to Mumbai City before the international break.
They will look to hit the ground running and Kerala Blasters might be the perfect opponent to do that. NEUFC will rely heavily on the former PSG man Bartholomew Ogbeche who has six goals from six appearances this season. The Uruguayan attacking midfielder Federico Gallego has been a revelation this season with goals and assists and is pivotal to NEUFC’s attacking play.
Kerala Blasters have only won one game so far this season and that was on the opening day of the ISL season where they won against ATK. Since then, they’ve drawn games they could’ve won and they go into this game on the back of two consecutive defeats against Bengaluru FC and FC Goa.
The Slovenian forward Matej Poplatnik signed this season has not made an impact and CK Vineeth has been in poor form. They do have a capable defence led by Sandesh Jhingan and have been decent in midfield with Nikola Krcmarevic chipping in with a couple of goals. The paucity of goals from Kerala could be addressed to some extent by the Serbian forward Slavisa Stojanovic who has a return of three goals from seven matches.
With Ogbeche leading the Northeast United attack, the Kerala defence will have to take a cue from Mumbai City who stifled NEUFC by playing a pressing game and by not allowing any space between the lines.
If Northeast United do manage to score, then Kerala Blasters will need its players to stand up and be counted. Too often this season they’ve been let down by wasted chances upfront and they will need more than a goal to silence Northeast United.
FULL-TIME: Northeast United 2-1 Kerala Blasters
96′ – GOAL! 2-1 (Juan Cruz Mascia, NEUFC)
94′ – yellow card (Lalruatthara, Kerala Blasters)
93′ – GOAL! 1-1 (B. Ogbeche, Penalty, NEUFC)
88′ – yellow card (Matej Poplatnik, Kerala Blasters)
82′ – sub (NEUFC: Nikhil Kadam [IN] Redeem Tlang [OUT])
79′ – sub (NEUFC: Juan Cruz Mascia [IN] Mislav Komorski [OUT])
78′ – sub (Kerala Blasters: Lalruatthara [IN] S. Doungel [OUT])
73′ – GOAL! 0-1 (Matej Poplatnik, Header, Assist: Z. Mundampara, Kerala Blasters)
66′ – sub (Kerala Blasters: Zakeer Mundampara [IN] Sahal Abdul Samad [OUT])
65′ – sub (NEUFC: Keegan Pereira [IN] Robert Lalthlamuana [OUT])
64′ – yellow card (S. Doungel, Kerala Blasters)
60′ – sub (Kerala Blasters: CK Vineeth [IN] H. Narzary [OUT])
Northeast United won their first game at home in a dramatic fashion in stoppage time thanks to a brilliant cameo by Juan Cruz Mascia.
After dominating the first half where they had enough chances to wrap up the game, Northeast United conceded a goal in the 72nd minute. Zakeer’s delivery from the corner found the Kerala forward Matej Poplatnik who peeled off his marker and scored a great header.
Kerala were almost at the brink of seeing out a 1-0 win until they botched it up – again.
Sandesh Jhingan foolishly went into a challenge from behind and brought down Juan Cruz Mascia in the 92nd minute. Mascia had his back to the goal and was close to the edge of the 18 yard box when he received the ball. He was not in a goal-scoring position and there was no reason for Sandesh Jhingan to make a challenge. A penalty was awarded and Ogbeche dispatched it to level the scores.
But Northeast United weren’t done yet. After scoring the goal, Ogbeche picked up the ball and put it back on the centre circle – they weren’t settling for a draw. A couple of minutes later, Rowllin Borges found Juan Cruz Mascia in a bit of space in the 18 yard box. The ball sat up just about right for the Uruguayan to smash-volley the ball into the net. 2-1 and game, set, match to the Highlanders.
With the win, Northeast United move into third place behind FC Goa and Bengaluru FC. Their fierce desire to win and the perseverance to make it happen makes them nailed on for a play-off position this season. Federico Gallego and Rowllin Borges ran the game for NEUFC and they have a new star in Juan Cruz Mascia alongside Ogbeche. They will travel to Pune City for their next fixture on Nov. 27.
Kerala paid the price for lack of consistency in approach to the game as well as jarring individual errors during the game. They were under the cosh right from the get-go this game and it was the goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh who kept them in the game for as long as he could. Sandesh Jhingan and Lakic-Pesic are fairly decent on their day, but their entire campaign has been riddled with poor judgment calls and schoolboy defending. Halicharan Narzary and Len Doungel need to step up and show more grit and guile in the final third.
Apart from these obvious issues, the head coach David James chops and changes his teams every game. This is not good for the morale of the individual player as well as for a team to play together effectively. They are in a free-fall mode with three consecutive defeats although they played against the top 3 teams in the league. Kerala Blasters will look to resurrect their season when they take on Chennaiyin on Nov. 29.