FULL-TIME: Northeast United FC 1-0 Chennaiyin FC
Northeast United FC: Bartholomew Ogbeche [87′]
New signings Vineeth and Narzary remained anonymous as a listless Chennaiyin FC slumped to a defeat against Northeast United FC.
The first 20 minutes saw the teams cagey and reluctant to commit too much – understandably so as they are playing after a long layoff. NEUFC gradually gained a foothold in the game with the trio of Federico Gallego, Rowllin Borges and Bartholomew Ogbeche creating chances at will.
While Ogbeche was dropping deep for the ball, Borges was making runs beyond him and Gallego would take up positions in space. The co-ordination between the three troubled Chennai for the duration of the half.
The Highlanders’ build up play was patient and they utilised the full-backs on occasion and Redeem Tlang and Lalthathanga Khawlhring’s abilities in space. But the defenders Eli Sabia and Tondonba Singh threw their bodies on the line to deny them well into the second half.
After a promising start to the season, Northeast United endured a poor run of form before the winter break with no wins in four matches. They were determined to get all three points tonight and the new NEUFC signing Panagiotis Triadis was subbed in for the excellent Federico Gallego in the 75th minute as they looked to score.
Eventually, the Chennai resistance wore off. Chennai have conceded the most goals this season and a Ogbeche thunderbolt from well outside the box saw the Highlanders take the lead in the 87th minute. The Chennai defence were culpable for the goal after backing off and allowing time and space for Ogbeche to line up his sights and shoot.
Chennai never really got into the game tonight. The usually capable Raphael Augusto couldn’t drive the ball forward in his usual style while Nelson and Orlandi’s creative play lacked penetration and was met with stiff resistance. Halicharan Narzary and CK Vineeth signed days ago barely offered any outlet and were invisible on the pitch and left the faithful wondering if they turned up from Kerala at all.
The pair signed from a struggling Kerala Blasters have not exactly set the league alight and the decision to sign them is questionable at the very least.
With the win, Northeast United is no more of a ‘surprise package’ of the season (they finished bottom of the pile last season and scored only 12 goals). The play-offs look nailed on and they are strong contenders for the title itself. They will meet Bengaluru FC next on Jan 30.