NorthEast United FC beat Kerala Blasters FC 2-0 on Friday to book their place in the Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs. The Highlanders, who finished the league stage with 33 points from 20 matches, will face either ATK Mohun Bagan or Mumbai City FC in the semi-finals.
VP Suhair broke the deadlock in the 34th minute before Lalengmawia doubled NorthEast United FC's lead with a thunderous strike from 30 yards out in first-half injury-time.
NorthEast United FC are yet to lose a game since Khalid Jamil replaced Gerard Nus at the helm. Under Jamil, the Highlanders have played nine matches, winning six of those. When asked what changes he made to the side, the 43-year-old remained humble and said:
"I don't think so (I made any change) because the players deserved to be in this place. They worked very hard. Because of their efforts, we got the result. That is 100% sure. I don't have to tell anything to them. They are just playing according to the plan. Inside the ground, they are the main thing to beat."
Khalid Jamil revealed that NorthEast United FC's influential midfielder Federico Gallego, who played the last 30 minutes of the game, wasn't fully fit.
"He (Federico Gallego) wasn't fit actually. He trained just one day before the game. He wasn't 100%. We wanted him to play only one half or the last thirty minutes. I am very happy to see him back. It is good for us," Jamil further added.
Khalid Jamil praises Lalengmawia's goal
Lalengmawia became the youngest captain in ISL history when he led NorthEast United FC earlier in the season. The 20-year-old scored a wonderful goal on Friday to double his side's lead against Kerala Blasters FC.
"It was a very outstanding goal. He is one of the best players in India, we have. I am very happy to see his goal. He is a talented player. There is no doubt about it," Jamil mentioned.
VP Suhair has now scored two goals in his debut ISL season. The former Gokulam Kerala and Mohun Bagan player has improved his game immensely.
"To describe Suhair in one word- a team man. He works for the team only. That's why he is always in the starting eleven. He helps the team defensively. He does well in the attack. He helps the team in set-pieces also. He is a nice and humble man. I know him from before. He has the quality," Jamil further added.
After guiding NorthEast United FC to the ISL playoffs for only the second time in their history, Khalid Jamil admitted that the Highlanders will be under pressure.
"We have to wait and see which team we are going to play. There is a pressure, but we must enjoy the pressure," Jamil signed off.
It remains to be seen which team between FC Goa and Hyderabad FC join Mumbai City FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and NorthEast United FC in the ISL playoffs.