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NorthEast United needs a point against Kerala Blasters …
Khalid Jamil is a man of few words. But his actions have had the necessary impact after taking over from Gerard Nus at NorthEast United.
The Highlanders, who had not won in six games when they brought in the Indian manager after parting ways with Nus, have changed their season. The Guwahati-based club are now undefeated in eight games, including five wins and three draws.
The playoff race has also had twists and turns and with NorthEast posting a 2-1 win against East Bengal on Tuesday, they are now just one point away from booking a playoff spot for the second time in their history. The victory has brought their tally to 30 points and they now need a point against Kerala Blasters to seal their spot in the semi-final.
The East Bengal attack, led by forward Jeje Lalpekhlua, who started his fourth game of the season, did not threaten the Northeast defense enough to cause them problems. The Highlanders managed to create opportunities to score, but it was the second half that turned out to be action packed.
VP Suhair, who has been deployed on the right flank all season. once again it proved effective in the last third. The former Gokulam Kerala striker came in from the side, picked up a pass from Imran Khan and scored the opening goal. The Reds and Golds’ three-man defense with Scott Neville, Raju Gaikwad and Sarthak Golui was stretched quite often and they paid the price.
There was end-to-end football on display, but poor defense by Sarthak gave the Highlanders their second goal minutes later. A Nim Dorjee cross into the box was cut into his own net by the Indian defender after his first attempt to clear the ball went awry.
Sarthak then went on to do what every defender who scores an own goal tends to do. He headed home on a Surchandra Singh free kick from the left flank three minutes before the end of 90 minutes, but NorthEast United, which is firmly in the race for the playoffs, was vigilant enough to avoid a late comeback.
East Bengal deserves credit for their late comeback, especially after Gaikwad received a second yellow card and the team was reduced to 10 men. The Highlanders survived the late attack, but Robbie Fowler’s team just didn’t have enough quality to mount a comeback. They had even been struggling with players like Anthony Pilkington and Bright Enobakhare in the opening games and so on Tuesday, without those key players, their overall quality dropped even further.
Assistant coach Tony Grant exposed his thoughts on the game after the full-time whistle, saying: “We tried young players, we had Hehe (Lalpekhlua) in front and none of them had enough (quality), they never had enough. So That recruitment is always key and these are the players that we have had all season and this is the best they have looked. We were not ready at the beginning of the season, now they had a chance and they had to show us but they couldn’t show us They got). “
East Bengal’s lack of quality on the day helped NorthEast United and they will accept it. They put on a spirited performance to keep the undefeated streak and their play-off hopes alive.