Nelo Vingada’s stint as NorthEast United coach got off to the best start as they defeated last year’s runners-up FC Goa 2-0 in the former's second match at Guwahati. The home team were unable to overcome the Goan challenge prior to last night and Vingada broke the jinx with a comprehensive victory in front of a full house.
The heroics of The Highlanders was witnessed by an attendance of 27,816, around 1500 higher than the attendance for the opening ceremony. In a win for football, passionate fans of the region inspired their team to register an emphatic win before the team leaves for their first away game of the tournament.
It was almost the same NorthEast starting XI that played against Kerala Blasters in the opening game of the ISL. Vingada benched Velez and instead played an extra midfielder, Wellington Priori.
With a 4-5-1 formation, it was clear that the coach’s intention was to dictate the play and dominate the midfield.
FC Goa, on the other hand, had a couple of key players missing and hence resorted to a 5-4-1 formation. Goa, at least on paper, were stronger than the NorthEast side.
NorthEast’s Tactical Change
The opening 15 minutes of the game was a balanced affair with both teams trying to play it safe. The core of the home team was their midfield; Katsumi Yusa on the right wing and Romaric on the left.
The Highlanders had a greater chance of penetrating the Goan box via the left flank, but their left winger Romaric was not very effective on that side of the pitch. Within moments, the NorthEast coach realised this and moved Katsumi on to the left while Romaric was shifted to the right. With this change, the NorthEast jigsaw fell in place and the team played with more fluidity.
The Japanese midfielder Yusa is a player who can play in several positions. The midfielder is tricky, quick and is capable of finding a pass. Yusa, who scored the first goal of this year’s ISL, was all over the park last night, making the play and even defending.
Local boy Holicharan and the midfield
In addition to Katsumi’s impressive performance, Holicharan Narzary also had a good game and assisted the crucial second goal of NorthEast United.
The NorthEast coach spoke about the Narzary in the build-up to the match and said that the youngster ran as much as 12 km in the first match. He continued his excellent work-rate in the second match and was seen up and down the pitch.
The midfielder has good brilliant dribbling skills and has the potential to dissects the opposition’s defence with through-balls and crosses. Playing against his former club FC Goa, the boy from Assam left no stone unturned to help his team score and ultimately produced a brilliant assist to help Emiliano Alfaro score his and the team’s second goal.
Even the opposition coach Zico lauded his former player and said, “Holicharan played really well. And because of his performance, he is in the first team. When he played with us, we were very happy to give him the opportunity to begin. I wish him all the very best for the future”.
Another Indian who had a good game in the midfield was Rowlin Borges. The Goan, playing for NorthEast, created quite a few stellar passes in midfield to guide his team’s attack. Borges was also impressive in his tackling, intercepted quite a few balls and helped his team on the counter.
Spiderman Subrata and Alfaro
A brace by Uruguayan forward Alfaro ensured NorthEast United the crucial victory, but the man to be lauded for NorthEast’s victory was their goalkeeper Subrata Pal.
Against FC Goa, Pal made several saves to keep a clean sheet for his team, and the scoreline would have easily been 3-2 in favour of Goa, had the Indian goalkeeper not been between the sticks.
Speaking to Sportskeeda after the match, Subrata said, “I did nothing extra. We played a good game and hence NorthEast United won today. We played as a team. Goa too played very well. Anybody could have won, but they were a little bit unhappy.”
As for Emiliano Alfaro, he did show his potential in the first match and his goals in the second match showed that he’s no flash in the pan. But there is a lot more to be expected of the Uruguayan, as he was a bit slow and needs to improve his combination play with his teammates.
It was an unfortunate night for the visitors as they conceded a really unusual goal in the first half, and fell to a brilliant counter in the second. But overall, the team dominated the game and created quite a few chances.
Midfielder Jofre Gonzalez was probably the most notable player of the team, beating his marker quite a few times and also put in some good balls.
Forward Rafael Coelho also led a barrage of attacks for the Gaurs, but Subrata Pal did not lose his focus and saved them all.
For the visiting team, the Indian duo of Mandar Rao Desai and Romeo Fernandes were crucial. The swiftness of the game increased when the latter was substituted on to the field. But in the game against NorthEast, it looked like both of the youngsters did not live upto their potential.
Desai was particularly hard in the tackle during and game and was even awarded a card for it.
FC Goa will have to regroup and face FC Pune City on 8th October at home, while NorthEast United will play back-to-back away games against Mumbai City and FC Pune City.