Yusa gives NEUFC a winning start

Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa found the net in the 55th minute sending a 28000 strong crowd into wild celebrations.

Katsumi Yusa celebrates after scoring the only goal of the match.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

North East United FC gave a winning start to its Indian Super League campaign downing 2014 runner-up Kerala Blasters by a solitary goal in the opening match of the tournament’s third edition at the Indira Gandhi Stadium here on Saturday.

Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa found the net in the 55th minute sending a 28000 strong crowd into wild celebrations. This came as a fitting offering to the capacity gathering, whose expectations were raised by a colourful opening ceremony a couple of hours earlier.

The action for a great period saw NEUFC making the offensive moves as it pegged an overtly defensive Blasters back in its own territory.

Putting three men — Argentine Nicolas Velez, Uruguyan Emiliano Alfaro and local talent Holicharan Narzary — in attack, NorthEast coach Nelo Vingada was clear in his offensive intent right from the start.

The visitors looked rusty for most of the time and could hardly reach the efficiency they showed in the previous season when they posted a 4-1 win here.

The home attack could have realised a bigger margin of a win but for Frenchman Cedric Hengbert and Northern Ireland’s Aaron Huges, who kept a tight vigil around the Blasters’ box.

It was during the half-hour mark when NEUFC launched a series of attacks. But the goal failed to materialise as Blasters’ English goalkeeper Graham Stack cleared an attempt each from Alfaro and the Ivory Coast midfielder Romaric within a span of four minutes.

The visitors also had one chance off a counter-attack but the English forward Antonio German saw two his attempt from the top of the box going wide in the 38th minute.

With Vingada redrawing the plan at the break, NEUFC returned more organised especially in the midfield, which had looked a bit lethargic in the first half.

Narzary chugged up from right and sent a probing cross across the Blasters goalmouth but the ball seemed to be a bit too far from the reach of an onrushing Alfaro. This set up the tempo for the goal in the 55th minute when Velez was more precise in his provision as Yusa, who is on loan from Mohun Bagan, outran his marker to tap the ball home.

Blasters tried to get back into the game but its attempts went waste; first because of a wayward shot by German in the 57th and next due to a fine save by NEUFC’s goalkeeper Subrata Paul who cleared Sandesh Jinghan’s 60th minute attempt.

Result: NorthEast United FC (Katsumi Yusa 55) bt Kerala Blasters FC 0.