NorthEast United FC down ATK

A ninth-minute penalty from marquee player Simao Sabrosa gave NorthEast United FC a 1-0 win over defending champions Atletico de Kolkata at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.

ATK's Amrinder Singh failed to keep out Simao Sabrosa's efoort from the spot.   -  ISL/ SPORTZPICS

NorthEast United FC proved to be the nemesis for defending champions Atletico de Kolkata once again as they downed the latter by a solitary goal to repeat the result from the first leg. Portuguese World Cupper Simao Sabrosa scored the all important goal from the penalty spot here at the Salt Lake Stadium.

The match, on Saturday, saw a strange outcome where the home side made all the toil just to see the visitors walk away with the three points. NEUFC will not mind the unfavourable statistics as they ensured their first away win of the tournament. It also meant an escape from the nadir of the league position, where they had remained in the last few rounds.

NEUFC will count itself lucky for getting the early penalty that Simao scored with immaculate placement that beat the accurate dive of the ATK custodian Amrinder Singh. Referee David John Gantar seemed to have missed the fact that NEUFC’s Argentine defender Carlos Lopez fell on his own in the ATK box as he tried to reach a corner taken by Simao. ATK defender Oftense Nato was unlucky to be punished for the penalty as the television replays showed no contact.

The hosts made repeated bids to get the equaliser but their attempts were nixed by luck and good defending from the visitors. NEUFC’s Venezuelan coach Cesar Farias made a vital change in the central defence; he rested Frenchman Cedric Hengbert and pulled back Cameroonian midfielder Andre Bikey to partner Lopez in deep defence.

The two tall and robust defenders formed a wall in the NEUFC box making it difficult for the ATK attackers, especially Iain Hume, to get a clear sight at the goal. ATK had a few chances to find parity but their attackers seemed to run into a jungle of legs as the visitors ‘parked the bus’.

Mohammad Rafique, who came in as late inductee in the team just before the match, set up Hume with a nice back-centre in the 38th minute. The Canadian striker’s attempted header landed on the roof of the goal signifying the fruitless toil that the host attack had been putting on for the most part of the match. Rafique, whose header in the final fetched ATK the title last season, made another attempt in the 41st minute but his header was not sharp enough to beat Rehenesh T.P. in goal.As the host pushed more men into attack, it ran the peril of leaving gaping holes in defence.

Argentine striker Nicolas Velez could well have doubled the lead as he beat the ATK defence on a couple of occasions but failed to find the net. ATK coach Antonio Habas went for a three-man attack bringing in Spaniard Valdo after the break but it made little difference as Lopez and Bikey played their role to perfection. They stifled both Hume and Valdo on more than one occasion to help preserve NorthEast’s lead. The win takes NEUFC to 10 points from eight matches, equal with ATK but are ahead on goal difference.

The result: Atletico de Kolkata lost to NorthEast United FC 1 (Simao Sabrosa 9’).


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