ISL 2018-19: NorthEast United FC vs ATK, 5 Talking Points


NorthEast United FC played host to ATK in their final home game of 2018. While their home form hasn't been great this season, they wanted to end the calendar year on a high.

ATK didn't have the best of the starts to the season but have been on the rise lately. Guwahati has been a happy hunting ground for the two-time champions in the past, and they wanted to keep that same record going.

Both the sides cautiously started the game, and it was evident from the very beginning that none of the teams wanted to lose the game.

The first half ended with the scoreboard reading nil-nil.

The second half had more of the same in store for us as both the teams played a safe brand of football not wanting to lose a game especially when both are on a high and with the international break closing in.

The game ended nil-nil.

On that note let us take a look at the five talking points from today's game

#5 Fatigue started played its part in a lacklustre display by Northeast United FC

NorthEast United gaffer Eelco Schattorie made it clear in the pre-match press conference that his main concern for the game today wasn't ATK and their strengths but Fatigue. It was evident from the first few minutes that the NorthEast players were tired and were way below their usual levels on the pitch. A lot of gaps seemed to be cropping up in the midfield and defence which caused a few problems for the Highlanders in playing their usual passing football.

Fatigue had already claimed its first victim in the last game when Provat Lakhra went off injured. Today NorthEast was forced to change Robert their first choice left who too seemed unfit for the tie.

Their first choice Croatian centre-back Mislav Komorski went limping off in within the first 30mins of the game which put a dent in their plans for the match against ATK.

Federico Gallego and Barth Ogbeche who have been in tremendous form for NorthEast United looked shades below their usual self and made half-hearted attempts to take control of the game something which wasn't seen before.

NorthEast United will be happy with a point given the current circumstances.

#4 ATK still a work in progress

ATK is one of the most successful sides in Indian Super League history, but the past few seasons has been far from ideal for the team from the City of Joy. Last season they finished 9th in the points table in the 10team league, and this season too their start was far from ideal.

They have had a late rise in the table, but it looks like the team is still a work in progress. They faced NorthEast United at a time when the team was suffering from fatigue and crunch fixtures but failed to capitalise on the situation.

ATK has been marred with a couple of injuries but given the squad, they boost of those injuries shouldn't have affected the game today.

ATK failed to test the NorthEast keeper Pawan Kumar, and they didn't create any clear-cut chances that can be written about.

Steve Coppell's strategy of playing a steady defence game has also affected the way the team are playing this season.

#3 John Johnson, Andre Bikey, Gerson Vieira the trio who controlled the game

John Johnson
John Johnson

ATK has one of the best defences in the league even though the stats might suggest otherwise. The trio of John Johnson, Andre Bikey, and Gerson Vieira was too much for the NorthEast United attack to break down.

Gerson played as the Central defensive midfielder while Bikey and John Johnson slotted in as the centre-backs. Gerson, in particular, was brilliant in countering the threat that Gallego possessed. Bikey did his job of marking the league's joint top scorer Ogbeche to perfection as Johnson saw to it that no late runners made their presence felt inside the box.

Another aspect that was good to see was that the trio always doubled up whenever any of the NorthEast players had the ball near the ATK box which made it hard for NorthEast to play their natural game.

Gerson and Bikey also led the team in keeping their defensive shape and made sure that the two backs of four were always in position and shape.

The ex Mumbai defender Gerson also helped ATK regain possession on a couple of occasions.

#2 Mato Grgic and Jose Leudo, the silent torchbearers of NorthEast United FC

Bartholomew Ogebeche and Federico Gallego have been the players who have got the goals and assists for NorthEast United FC, and they are the players on whom everyone keeps an eye on.

NorthEast has the fourth-best attack in the league, but they have the second-best defence in the league. Till now NorthEast have scored 15 goals this season but have conceded only nine just two more than Bengaluru. While Goals win you games, it is often said that Defence wins you championships and it seems that NorthEast are walking on that path.

Mato Grgic has been a rock for NorthEast United this season. While his partner in defence and countryman Mislav Komorski has been in and out of the squad due to suspension and injuries, Mato has been the ever-reliable man for NorthEast United FC.

Jose Leudo has been NorthEast defensive screen this season, and the Columbian hasn't let the Highlander faithful down. He has been ever present on the pitch and can be seen chasing down every ball that comes toward the NorthEast half. His passing and ability to play a long ball to split open defences have also been a vital tool for NorthEast United this season.

Mato and Jose have had an equal impact on the team as much as Barth and Gallego.

#1 With the playoffs in sight NEUFC touch the 20 point mark for the second time in their ISL history

With the point today NorthEast United now have amassed 20 points from their 11 games. It is only the second time in their ISL history that they have reached the 20 point mark. The last time they touched the 20 point mark was in the 2015 season when they finished the league with 20 points.

This time though they have reached the figure with six games remaining and have the opportunity to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their ISL history.

If NorthEast United continue to perform the way they are playing in the second phase of the season too then it can be said that there is no stopping them from reaching their maiden playoffs.

A couple of factors though could play spoilsport for the Highlanders, and they are first and foremost they lack depth or bench strength which could hamper their campaign given the nature of the league and with injuries.

Lack of bench strength could also mean players getting injured or tired quickly due to consecutive matches which again could hamper some of the results in the latter part of the tournament.

Lastly, the upcoming international break could be a blessing or a curse as it could very well stop or derail the momentum which the team has gained. While the break could also work as a blessing as the team could use the break to get fitter and work on the training ground to improve their overall game.

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Edited by Kishan Prasad
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