ISL 2020-21: NorthEast United completes superb recovery, qualifies for playoffs with Blasters win
ISL 2021: NorthEast United defeated Kerala Blasters 2-0 at Vasco's Tilak Maidan to pick up the third semifinal spot, after ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC.
NorthEast United players celebrate the team's qualification for the playoffs.
Just over a month ago, NorthEast United had sacked its head coach Gerard Nus. The team was in the seventh spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) around that time. It has been a remarkable comeback for the side under interim coach Khalid Jamal after that.
For NorthEast defeated Kerala Blasters 2-0 at Vasco's Tilak Maidan on Friday to pick up the third semifinal spot, after ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC. It moved to the third rung in the 11-team ladder with 33 points after its last league match. The Blasters stayed at the 10th spot with 17 points.
NorthEast needed just a point to progress to the playoffs but with Blasters looking a bit dangerous in the first half hour, the Highlanders noticed the many red flags popping up. They were a transformed lot after that, scoring twice within the space of 12 minutes to throw the Blasters off the rails.
V.P. Suhair opened the tally for NorthEast and the young Lalengmawia Apuia came up with a beauty in the injury time of the first half to help the side breathe easy.
Lalengmawia scored his first ISL goal against Kerala Blasters. - ISL/Sportzpics
The left flank proved to a rewarding one for NorthEast, it allowed the side to move up without much of a problem. And the Kerala-born Suhair danced past two defenders and the goalkeeper Albino Gomes and scored in the 34th minute, off a Khassa Camara pass which deflected off Kone, to give NorthEast the lead. The Blasters defence, which had been the team's bane this season, was in a disarray during that phase.
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A few minutes later, the 20-year-old Lalengmawia produced a bullet of a longranger from the left which hit the crossbar and went in, giving the flying goalkeeper Gomes no chance. It was his first goal in the ISL and could also be one of the best this season.