NorthEast United FC moved closer to a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over 10 SC East Bengal, Indian Super League (ISL) players at Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday. The strike from Suhair Vadakkepeedika (48th) and an own goal from Sarthak Golui (55th) gave the advantage to the Highlanders, before the latter retreated a goal in the 87th minute. The victory brought Khalid Jamil’s side back to the top four. They now have 30 points in 19 matches, tied with FC Goa. The Highlanders only need one point from their last league game against the Kerala Blasters to advance to the playoffs.
NorthEast made a change when Nim Dorjee came in to replace Ashutosh Mehta. East Bengal made eight changes to their team which lost to ATK Mohun Bagan as only Matti Steinmann, Sarthak Golui and Raju Gaikwad were retained in the game XI.
Although he has no regulars, SCEB has made life difficult in NorthEast. The Highlanders had a few half chances but East Bengal held them well. Mirshad Michu made an early save to keep Deshorn Brown from getting any closer when he hit a Luis Machado pass from inside the box.
Michu was forced to another save when Suhair attempted a ranged shot, however, the rebound went to Machado, whose attempt was unsuccessful.
Later, Machado and Brown combined on a set piece, but the Jamaican couldn’t bother Michu. SCEB’s Jeje Lalpekhlua had a good chance in the 35th minute, but his header went wide.
Without any clear chance for both sides, the teams went to the same level at the break. Although the game was mostly confined to the midfield, NorthEast was better in terms of game control.
It was a different Northeast team in the second half. They took the lead with their first chance at half-time. Picking up the ball from the left, Imran Khan drove forward before serving a precise through pass to Suhair, who scored his first goal of the campaign.
The Highlanders stepped up their attacks after taking the lead, and it didn’t take long to secure their second. But this time, it was an own goal that inflated their tally. Dorjee whipped up a cross from the right and in an attempt to clear, Sarthak sliced the ball off his shin at the back of the net.
Things turned from bad to worse for the Calcutta-based team who had to play the last 20 minutes with one man missing. Gaikwad knocked Brown down outside the box, and the referee showed him his second yellow.
With less than five minutes on the clock, Sarthak redeemed himself with a great goal. Surchandra Singh delivered the free kick right in the middle as Sarthak nodded.
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