FULL-TIME: Northeast United FC 2-1 Bengaluru FC
Northeast United: 20′ Redeem Tlang (Assist: B. Ogbeche); 90+5′ Juan Cruz Mascia (Penalty).
Bengaluru FC: 82′ Xisco Hernandez (Assist: Sunil Chhetri).
Northeast United FC put up a spirited performance to beat Bengaluru FC, but an away goal for the visitors means an intriguing second leg encounter is in the offing at The Fortress.
With Gurwinder Singh suspended for tonight’s game, NEUFC had to play two foreigners in central defence – Mato Grgic and the new signing from Colombia Janeiler Rivas. This essentially meant the Greek attacking midfielder Panagiotis Triadis was left out of the starting XI.
Bengaluru FC started with the usual front three of Sunil Chhetri, Miku and Udanta Singh. The midfield saw the inclusion of new signing Álex Barrera in midfield with Xisco left out on the bench.
The home side started the game on the front foot and dominated possession. They used width to good effect and threatened especially from the right flank with Redeem Tlang troubling the opposition with his movement and crossing. The Highlanders made their early advantage count and scored in the 20th minute. Ogbeche found Redeem in a bit of space on the right wing near the box. Redeem cut inside and scored with a beautiful left-footed finish in the far corner.
After taking the lead, the Highlanders pushed forward and had a couple of sighters from outside the box. Bengaluru FC on the other hand could barely create anything to challenge the opposition as they went into half-time trailing by a goal.
A couple of substitutions in and around half-time derailed some of NEUFC’s momentum. The league’s second highest goal scorer Ogbeche and the midfield lynch pin Rowllin Borges were both pulled off for injuries.
The Blues looked a much better side in the second half. But Northeast United continued to restrict space and did really well to keep Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh in check who were peripheral for large parts of the game.
As the running sum graph and team xG indicates, Bengaluru created precious little – but eventually their sheer persistence to get back in the game paid off late in the second half. Sunil Chhetri with a give-and-go with Miku found himself in the box to the left of the six yard line.
Chhetri waited for what looked like an eternity and eventually pulled the ball back to Xisco who ghosted into the six yard box amidst a handful of NEUFC defenders and applied the finish. The scores were level in the 82nd minute and it was advantage Bengaluru having got the away goal.
After conceding, NEUFC continued searching for a goal and they managed to win a penalty in second half stoppage time with seconds to go for the full-time whistle. Khabra wrestled Juan Cruz Mascia to the ground in the box from a set piece situation and the referee pointed to the spot.
Mascia stepped up to take the spot kick and smashed it in to leave the sizeable home crowd in raptures.
With tonight’s win, NEUFC have a slight advantage going into the second leg. Bengaluru FC have to score at home on Monday to set things in motion. Northeast United will most probably be without Ogbeche and Borges for the second leg – while Obeche is a prolific goal scorer, Rowllin Borges is a standard fixture in the NEUFC midfield and has featured in every game in their campaign so far.
All things said and done, the second leg promises to be a compelling fixture with progress into the final at stake.