ISL 2020-21 news: NorthEast United downs East Bengal, keeps play-off hopes alive

ISL 2021: NEUFC needs a point in its final outing against Kerala blasters to secure a play-off qualification for the second time in the ISL history.

VP Suhair celebrates scoring for NorthEast United against East Bengal in the ISL.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

NorthEast United FC brightened its chances of making it to the play-offs when it downed a 10-man East Bengal 2-1 in a 19th round fixture of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday. After a barren opening half, V.P. Suhair gave NorthEast the lead scoring his first goal of the ISL. East Bengal defender Sarthak Golui scored an own goal to double NorthEast’s lead and later scored one on the other end to pull one back for his side.

AS IT HAPPENED

The opening half appeared a bit disappointing for NorthEast as it failed to make much of an impression in the opposition box. East Bengal, which had nothing to play for, justifiably fielded a team with a number of names from the bench. The red-and-gold side was clearly looking to test its Indian players ahead of the next season and made eight changes in the side that lost the Kolkata derby against Mohun Bagan in the previous outing.

The move by East Bengal should have helped NorthEast but it appeared to be lacking in the initiative in attack. Instead, East Bengal forward Jeje Lalpekhlua had a good chance of finding the lead for his side but his 35th header from close missed the target.

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NorthEast was a completely reformed side after the break as it started pressing the East Bengal defence with more purpose. It found the lead in the 48th minute when wing-half Imran Khan played a nice through pass to find Suhair inside the box. The forward produced a nice finish as he shielded his marker, took a half turn and sent an angular left-footer into the East Bengal net. With the deadlock broken NorthEast doubled the lead in the 55th minute when Nim Dorjee delivered a cross on the East Bengal goalmouth just to see Golui miscuing an attempted clearance into his own goal.

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East Bengal suffered another blow in the 71st minute when defender Raju Gaikwad was sent off for his second booking of the match. Golui redeemed his mistake in the 87th minute nodding home a Surchandra Singh free-kick but his effort came a bit too late.

It was a great recovery by NorthEast United, which sacked its head coach midway through the season Gerard Nus early in January, and then went on to remain unbeaten under interim coach Khalid Jamil. The team tallied 30 points from 19 matches and just needs a point in its final outing against Kerala blasters to secure a play-off qualification for the second time in the ISL history. East Bengal remained in the ninth spot with 17 points from 19 matches.