Northeast United FC and East Bengal FC met at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati in a pivotal match in the top-6 race. The Highlanders defeated East Bengal FC 3-2 in the end, winning by narrow margins. Northeast United was defeated 5-0 in the first encounter betweeen these two sides in the league and were eliminated on penalties by East Bengal FC in the Durand Cup semifinals. Juan Pedro Benali will thus be pleased with his team’s performance against East Bengal and, more importantly, that they are now in the top six in the ISL standings.
The hosts, Northeast United, were on an eight-game winless streak in the league going into this match. Their most recent league victory came in October against Jamshedpur FC. Their defensive problems have been made evident by the fact that they have not kept a clean sheet in their past 13 games in all competitions. East Bengal, on the other hand, had won 6 games and drawn 7 during their 11-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. Despite their winning streak, they had only won 2 of their 11 ISL games this season, which raises concerns about their league form. Both clubs need to win this game to have a chance to finish in the top six in the ISL.
Juan Pedro Benali, the head coach of Northeast United, made three changes to the team that played Jamshedpur FC to a 1-1 draw the previous game.Bekey Oram was replaced replaced by Dinesh Singh, who was suspended for the previous game. Australian marksman Tomi Juric replaced Regragui to make his full debut, while Redeem Tlang replaced Parthib Gogoi. Conversely, Carles Cuadrat made a single change to the team that played in the Kolkata derby. Sayan Banerjee was handed his ISL debut as he replaced Saul Crespo, who suffered an injury in the derby. New signings Victor Vazquez and Felicio Brown were named among the substitutes.
Tomi Juric, the recent signing, gave the Highlanders the lead in the fourth minute, capping off an incredible start. Jithin took advantage of Rakip’s weak touch by passing the ball to Nestor Albiach, who then perfectly played the ball across the goal to Juric, who tapped in from the far post. Nestor Albiach extended the hosts’ lead ten minutes later. Nestor scored his third goal in the ISL after Redeem Tlang produced a beautiful ball across the 18-yard box which was finished by Nestor at the far post. Shortly after, Samte caught Gill off guard and launched a long-range shot that went just above the post, putting Northeast United FC within a couple of inches of scoring a third goal.
The first yellow card of the match was given to Cleiton Silva for dissent in the 24th minute. Dinesh Singh was also booked shortly afterward for his reckless tackle on Sayan Banerjee. After the first-half drinks break, Sayan registered East Bengal’s first attempt on goal, sending the ball right into Mirshad’s palms. Shortly after, Mahesh Singh found Ajay Chhetri following a short corner, but Macarton made a vital interception to keep their two-goal advantage intact. At the end of the first half, three further minutes were added. In the additional time, Cleiton attempted a volley from outside the box, but his shot missed the target. The first half ended with the Higlanders leading by two goals to nil.
At halftime, Carles Cuadrat made two substitutions: Mandar and PV Vishnu took the places of Pardo and Nishu Kumar. Asheer Akthar nearly turned Mahesh’s shot into his own goal early in the second half, but Mirshad made a fantastic stop to prevent Asheer Akthar from scoring the own goal of the season. For East Bengal, Nandhakumar pulled one back in the 53rd minute. Cleiton Silva sent a fantastic pass to Nandha, who blasted his shot beyond Mirshad’s legs. The Northeast United goalkeeper, Mirshad Michu, had a chance to do better as he could have comfortably stopped the ball.
Approximately sixty minutes into the match, Redeem Tlang found Tomi Juric, who had a fantastic opportunity to give the Highlanders a two-goal advantage again. The Australian striker, however, was unable to take advantage of the opportunity since his shot went directly to Prabshukhan Gill. Sayan Banerjee was replaced by Felicio Brown Forbes in the 62nd minute of the game, marking Forbes’ debut. Chungnunga was booked for a clumsy tackle a few seconds later. Tomi Juric gave back Northeast United FC the two-goal lead in the 66th minute by hitting a fantastic curler to the far post with his right foot, leaving Prabhsukhan Gill with little chance.
Both managers made a few substitutions: Victor Vazquez, making his Red and Gold debut, took Ajay Chhetri’s place for the Highlanders, and Regragui replaced Nestor Albiach. Felicio Brown Forbes gave East Bengal FC their second goal in the 82nd minute when he tapped in following Michel Zabaco’s goal-line clearance. Once again, Mirshad Michu had to perform better since he allowed Cleiton’s shot to almost go into his own net, forcing Zabaco to clear it which was eventually turned in by Forbes.
East Bengal were playing at their best and pressing hard to equalize, so Juan Pedro Benali made three substitutions to mix things up. Conversely, with VP Suhair, substituted for defender Chungnunga, Carles Cuadrat launched an all-out attack in quest for the equalizer. At the end of the second half, eight more minutes were added. Redeem Tlang was replaced by Guarav Bora during stoppage time as Northeast attempted to hang on for all three points. East Bengal FC made several attempts to equalize but were unable to do so as Northeast United FC showed an unwavering determination to earn all three points. The home team won 3-2 in the end.
Northeast United FC has returned, at least temporarily, to the top 6 after their victory. Tomi Juric has played well, and Juan Pedro Benali will be pleased with his play since the Australian forward has changed the way the squad plays as a whole. Carles Cuadrat would be dissatisfied with his team’s defense because they have conceded three goals in a single game, which is equal to the total number of goals they had conceded in their previous six ISL games. On February 13, East Bengal will play their next match against Mumbai City FC, and on February 17, the Highlanders will travel to Kolkata to play Mohun Bagan Super Giants.
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