NorthEast United FC started their journey in the 131st edition of the Durand Cup with a 0-6 loss against Odisha FC. The Highlanders fielded their reserve side while the Juggernauts fielded their main team.
The 131st edition of the Durand Cup is being held in three cities, Kolkata, Imphal and Guwahati.
The Group D opener took place on Wednesday (August 17) in Guwahati. Group D consists of NorthEast United FC, Odisha FC, Kerala Blasters, Sudeva Delhi FC, and Indian Army Green.
Odisha FC were the better team right from kickoff and kept attacking the Highlanders' goal. NorthEast United FC tried to stay in shape and not give the Kalinga Warriors much space.
Jerry Mawihmingthanga opened the scoring for Odisha FC in the 14th minute with a fine strike which easily beat NorthEast United FC's keeper Nikhil Deka. Nandha Kumar finished off a brilliant counterattack in the 25th minute with a beautiful curler from the edge of the box to make it 2-0.
Jerry made it 3-0 in the 38th minute when he completed a superb team move which saw Pedro and Nandha combine brilliantly. The scoreboard at halftime read 3-0.
Fans hoped for a better display from NorthEast United FC in the second half, but the Highlanders reserve side failed to do anything substantial.
NEUFC held on for a long time in the second half, but Isak scored the fourth for Odisha FC from a corner in the 81st minute.
Diego Mauricio scored the fifth goal for the Juggernauts from a brilliantly taken free kick in the 88th minute. Thoiba scored the sixth and final goal in the 90th minute.
NorthEast United FC's head coach Marco Balbul appreciates fans for supporting reserve side
NorthEast United FC's head coach for the season, Marco Balbul, was in the stands for the game. After the game, while speaking to Sportskeeda, he praised the support his reserve side received today.
The Israeli head coach was all praise for the game and the support that was present there. He didn't want to comment on the team's performance as it was just the first game in which the side played that too with the reserves.
Highlanders reserve team head coach Shubham Rabha accepted his side's flaws and mentioned the need to rectify their mistakes before the next game. He also said it was an excellent opportunity for the reserve players to play in such a tournament and improve their skills.
Regarding the chances of the seniors playing in the next game, he said:
"We have a few senior team players registered for the Durand Cup, but we will see what the team composition will be before the game itself, we cannot comment on that right now."
The Highlanders play Army Green on August 21, while Odisha FC have a six-day break and play their next match on August 23 against Kerala Blasters.