NorthEast United FC continued their unbeaten start to their season with a goalless draw against Chennaiyin FC, in the 26th match of the 2020-21 Indian Super League Season, at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa.
There were plenty of chances for either side, but none were taken due to average finishing from both. Idrissa Sylla and Lallianzuala Chhangte, in particular, should have got their name on the scoresheet.
The match got off to a quick start as Lallianzuala Chhangte ran into the box and tried to push the ball inside the far post. But Gurmeet Singh pushed it away. The ball fell to Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev, but Benjamin Lambot came up with a quick interception to get NorthEast United FC away from danger. At the other end, Ninthoinganba Meetei delivered a good cross into the box only to see Eli Sabia clear it.
NorthEast United FC slowed down the game with some possession inside their own half before Idrissa Sylla showed good footwork to find Luis Machado. The Portuguese winger passed the ball to VP Suhair, who came up with a shot that was deflected for a corner.
The resultant set-piece delivery from Machado was long. But Dylan Fox crossed it into the box once again only to see Lambot get a good opportunity. However, his header lacked the sting to trouble Vishal Kaith. The NorthEast United players appealed for a hand-ball. The referee deemed that it was not deliberate.
In the 25th minute, left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala stole the ball from Idrissa Sylla before sending in a low cross. There wasn’t any Chennaiyin FC forward in the vicinity to make use of the chance.
After the cooling break, NorthEast United grew into the game once again. Luis Machado’s shot from the left flank was blocked after Idrissa Sylla failed to control the initial long ball. Then, Ninthoi’s cross from the rebound was deflected for a corner. After that, both the teams tried to build slowly from the back, but no opening was to be seen before the half-time break.
NorthEast United started the second half superbly. Luis Machado brought down a diagonal ball from Ninthoi before playing a one-two with VP Suhair. The latter then set up Idrissa Sylla for a shot, but the Guinean failed to hit the target. Just seconds later, Chhangte released Jakub Sylvester into the box, but once again the shot was struck into the side of the net.
In the 54th minute, VP Suhair somehow twisted and turned before sending in a hopeful low ball which found Idrissa Sylla. The latter struck it powerfully but Vishal Kaith jumped high to come up with a fantastic save. After a couple of failed corners, Vishal Kaith misjudged a Machado delivery. This time Dylan Fox couldn’t head it in as he was surrounded by 2-3 Chennaiyin players.
A few minutes later, Chennaiyin FC should have gone 1-0 up if not for a poor shot from Lallianzuala Chhangte. Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev found Jakub Sylvester, following which the forward got a good shot but Gurmeet pushed it away. Chhangte got to hold off the ball but he blazed his shot way over the cross-bar from close range.
If that was a big miss, Idrissa Sylla bettered it with a bigger miscue. NorthEast United FC left-back Gurjinder Singh dashed past a couple of Chennaiyin FC players after making an interception to find Rochharzela. Roccharzela or Chara as he is better known, delivered one of the best through balls of the season. However, Sylla shot it wide with only Vishal Kaith remaining to be beaten.
In the 79th minute, Eli Sabia got the better of his marker from a Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev delivery. But his header turned out to be a straight-forward collection for the NorthEast United custodian Gurmeet Singh. Three minutes later, substitute Thoi Singh delivered a cross to Dhanpal Ganesh, who had also just come into the field.
However, Ganesh couldn’t find the target as Benjamin Lambot made the angle very acute for a shot. Soon, a Lallianzuala Chhangte cross saw Anirudh Thapa in good space for a shot. But Thoi Singh came in his way as the move slipped away.
Just when it looked like NorthEast United were defending to save one point, Chara received a ball from Khassa Camara. He dribbled it past a couple of defenders in the box. The NorthEast United youngster did take his shot, but the CFC defenders dived in to block the danger.
ISL 2020-21, NEUFC vs CFC: Who was the Hero of the Match?
French-born Mauritanian Khassa Camara has been one of the top signings of this ISL season. He put in a tremendous shift for NorthEast United again as he bagged the ‘Hero of the Match’ award. The defensive midfielder had 49 touches and won most of his aerial and ground duels in the game.
Ahead of the season, there was a question mark on whether Camara can sufficiently replace Jose Leudo. The latter had proved to be a great screen in front of NorthEast United’s defense in the last few seasons. Against Chennaiyin FC, Camara continued to showcase that ability with one interception and two tackles.