Northeast United FC continued their good start to the 2020-21 Indian Super League Season with a 2-0 win against SC East Bengal at the Tilak Maidan Stadium at Vasco da Gama, Goa. East Bengal’s place at the bottom of the points table continues with a somewhat unfortunate defeat.
It was East Bengal who started the match on the front foot. Jacques Maghoma’s skill-set saw Ashutosh Mehta getting a yellow card in just the second minute. The eventual delivery from the free-kick was good by Maghoma but Scott Neville couldn’t trouble the goal-keeper Gurmeet Singh.
At the other end, Maghoma also lost the ball on a few occasions. It resulted in Ninthoinganba Meetei coming up with a good cross to Idrissa Sylla. Even though the latter headed it wide, NorthEast United looked like settling into the match.
The ISL debutants East Bengal had a few more set-piece opportunities soon enough but they couldn’t capitalize on them properly. Apart from these, East Bengal were also smooth in open play. It was especially due to the brilliant movement from their skipper Anthony Pilkington.
He got a half-chance in the 15th minute, but he headed the ball wide. The biggest talking point of the first half came five minutes later as Ashutosh Mehta clipped Jacques Maghoma inside the box. But the referee C. Santosh Kumar never thought that it was a penalty. This was probably one of the most clear-cut penalties in the season which was denied. It saw Robbie Fowler fuming in a predictable manner.
After getting the lucky break, NorthEast United came alive through the exciting Ninthoi. He got ahead of Narayan Das before trying to find Kwesi Appiah in the box. However, his cut-back was intervened by a quick Sehnaj Singh.
Just after the first cooling break, NorthEast United went 1-0 ahead in the most fortuitous manner. A low cross struck Surchandra Singh and rolled past Debjit Majumder who got wrong-footed. That goal came NorthEast United's way after Idrissa Sylla won a header when he got a long ball. Sylla released Kwesi Appiah on the right flank and he looked to find the former yet again with a low cross. This was when Surchandra tried to intercept, but instead, he gave away an own goal.
Even after that goal, East Bengal kept their intensity up as Balwant Singh was handed a glorious chance to equalize. However, the delivery from Maghoma was just a bit over Balwant. The first half came to an end with another chance for East Bengal as Narayan Das’ header was cleared off the line by Kwesi Appiah.
In the second half, NorthEast United looked better as the duo of Apuia and Appiah came up with long shots, although they didn’t trouble Debjit Majumder much. A half-time substitute, CK Vineeth made a good run into the box after that. But Surchandra’s cross was just a bit over-cooked as the match turned into some end-to-end stuff.
Soon enough, East Bengal were robbed of an own goal as Mashoor Shereef seemed to have handled the ball inside the box. After a few substitutions, NorthEast United could have had a penalty on their own. Ninthoi was brought down by Sehnaj Singh after the winger had made an impressive run into the box.
Later, the likes of Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Mohammad Rafique brought out better play from East Bengal. In the 83rd minute, the trailing side appealed for yet another penalty after Anthony Pilkington went down, following a high boot from Benjamin Lambot. The referee waved off the appeal yet again, much to East Bengal’s disappointment.
As if the missed penalties weren’t enough, NorthEast United doubled their lead as VP Suhair found Rochharzela with a superb cross. The youngster found the back of the net with a neat finish. This win took NorthEast United to the second spot in the points table.
ISL 2020-21, NEUFC vs SCEB: Who was the Hero of the Match?
The Belgian center-back Benjamin Lambot was the most impressive player for NorthEast United as he marshalled a young back-line admirably. He did well to block off several shots and keep the likes of Jacques Maghoma and Anthony Pilkington at bay. Lambot's presence also helped Mashoor Shereef have a good game in the absence of Dylan Fox, who was rested.
Lambot also came up with some good runs from the back-line to deliver long passes. In the end, his solid presence helped NorthEast United register a comfortable win.