NorthEast United FC, buoyed by their enthusiastic home crowd battled hard and came close to closing on a number of occasions in the dying minutes of the game were thwarted by FC Goa, who didn’t do too bad themselves and were on top in the early stages of the game for the teams to eke out a draw; a fair result in the balance of the game.
NorthEast have earned a reputation as a counter-attacking team in the Indian Super League (ISL) so far and lived up to that billing with swift moves in the Goan territory. With both teams making sweeping changes in their forward line, a conservative approach in tactics from coaches from both sides loomed heavily. The game though, was anything but. Counter-attack was the mantra, but some eye catching football was also in display. The competitiveness of the battle was underlined by Issac Chanca clattering everytime the French maverick, Robert Pires was on the ball. It resulted in a free-kick and a harmless ball was delivered into the box and NorthEast’s goalkeeper, Rehenesh made a mess of it in the six-yard area and Gregory Arnolin had to hit the ball from a yard out, with the net wide open. The French defender scuffed his shot and inexplicably, the ball hit the post and Do Dong-Hyung’s clearance hit one of his defenders and fell right back to Arnolin and he made no mistake this time.
After being schooled by Atletico De Kolkata a few days ago at the same venue, it was imperative for the Highlanders to wrest momentum back and they attacked in droves and were rewarded a penalty when Youness Benegelloun’s nudged Dong, just a yard in the ‘D’. It was a rather controversial call and the Goans were furious. Koke stepped up and took a cool penalty, that struck the bottom right corner and its was all square and game on.
From there on, till the end of the game it was a case of which team would end up making the first mistake and there were chances aplenty on either ends. It was not clear-cut though and some enthralling end-to-end football was on display. In the 70th minute, it looked like Gabriel Fernandez broke the deadlock with a clinical strike but the flag was raised and it was yet another close call. Dong, though was a menace for the Goan defence and was constantly terrorising the defence with his tricky runs.
The breakthrough, though never came and Goa got their first points on the board and NorthEast looked relived to have kept the technical and resilient Goa side.
North East United FC 1 (Gregory 15′) FC Goa 1 (Koke 35′)