Hello and welcome to Sportstar's live blog of the Indian Super League 2018-19 first leg semifinal clash between NorthEast United FC and Bengaluru FC played at Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.
WHAT. A. GAME. Boy what an absolute cracker of an ending! Khabra makes a terrible tackle, almost wrestles Mascia to the ground and the ref points to the spot. Mascia went on to take the penalty, sent it beyond Gurpreet's reach, to seal a remarkable win for NorthEast United FC.
90+3' GET INNNNNNNNNN! Mascia pummels the ball into the back of the net and makes it 2-1 to NEUFC!
90+3' PENALTY! KHABRA BRINGS MASCIA DOWN IN THE BOX AND NEUFC HAS A PENALTY!
90+3' Freekick to NEUFC! Will we see a match winning goal?
90' We're going to have three minutes of added time, ladies and gents.
87' Nishu Kumar has been really lucky to avoid getting into the ref's book tonight. He's gotten off with two fouls on Mascia, with the second one coming in the lead up to Bengaluru's equaliser.
85' What a turnaround we've witnessed. Five minutes to go, will we see another late goal?
82' EQUALISERRRR! Super-sub Xisco it is! Chhetri dodges his way into the box and delivers a pin-point cross towards Xisco, who makes no mistake and finds the back of the net to make it 1-1. More importantly, it gives BFC an all-important away goal.
78' Bengaluru has won two free-kicks from distance over the last four minutes, but has simply failed to make the most of it. Neither set-piece opportunity has threatened the NEUFC defence.
75' We're down to the last 15 minutes of play and NEUFC continues to hold on to its slender 1-0 lead.
73' Final change for NEUFC: Goalscorer Redeem is replaced by Keegan Pereira.
71' Chance for Chhetri! He's played into the box, with just the 'keeper to beat, but the Bengaluru skipper can't get to the lob on time. How costly is that miss going to be?
70' Chance of the half for NorthEast United! Gallego plays a clever little lob to Mascia in the box, but the latter can't beat his man to get a clean shot off. Replays show that Nishu had tugged Mascia's shirt, and hey, that had to be a penalty! How did the assistant ref miss that?
66' How close was that?! Xisco has some space on the edge of the box and he latches onto it, and his strike misses the target by a mere whisker! Although, the referee did seem to miss Redeem's horribly late sliding tackle on Xisco. Had the ref seen that, it would've amounted to Redeem's second yellow of the night and a send-off!
64' Dimas lines up to take a shot but appears to have been hacked down by Lalthathanga Khawlhring. The ref sees no foul though.
60' Change for Bengaluru: Xisco Hernandez replaces Serran.
59' Chhetri gets his first real chance of the night. A lovely long ball plays him into the box, but Reagan Singh does extremely well to keep the Bengaluru skipper in check and deny him a shot at goal.
55' A lovely ball is played towards Mascia in midfield, who nearly gets past the Bengaluru defence, but Bheke makes a key interception to deny hin.
48' Close! Pawan Kumar spills a simple collection and nearly gifts a goal to the lurking Chhetri!
46' We're back for another 45 minutes of exciting football. Can NorthEast United FC hold onto its lead and stay ahead or will Bengaluru make a comeback?
The home side has, without doubt, dominated the first half. Eelco Schattorie's men have seen more of the ball, troubled the opposition defence consistently and more importantly, taken the lead. Redeem Tlang scores his first goal of the Indian Super League as he received the ball on the right, dropped a shoulder, and buried his strike into the back of the net past a perplexed Gurpreet.
However, Ogbeche's late withdrawal, owing to what looked like a hamstring injury, could dampen NEUFC's spirits going into the second 45.
45+1' Terrible news for NorthEast United: Ogebche appears to have pulled his hamstring and leaves the pitch in tears. He is replaced by Juan Mascia.
45' Uh oh, trouble for Schattorie! Ogbeche stops his run midway and clutches his left hamstring.
41' Reckless. Miku makes a rash tackle from the back on Leudo to go into the ref's book. Quite a needless tackle.
39' Chance for Miku! He receives the corner on the far post and sets himself up beautifully, but blazes his shot well above the crossbar.
36' The Bengaluru attack has struggled to get going tonight. Neither Miku not Chhetri have managed a single shot on target yet.
32' Oooooh, that was inches away! Gallego receives the ball on the edge of the 18-yard-box and has a crack at it, but his shot whizzes just past the far post. Gurpreet has been kept on his toes today.
30' That looks dubious. Serran tugs on Ogbeche's jersey, but the ref sees no foul. Ogbeche though, is absolutely furious!
24' DIMAAAAAAAS! He strikes a half-volley from the edge of the box and Pawan Kumar dives to his right to make a fine stop. That's Bengaluru's first shot of the night.
20' GOAAAAAAAAAL! Reden Tlang gets on the scoresheet! Tlang cuts into the box and unleashes a stunning left-footed curling strike to caress it into the far corner and score his first ISL goal. What a night to score! Fun fact: NorthEast has never lost a game after scoring the opening goal.
18' OUCH! Gallego is taken out courtesy of a late tackle from Khabra. That's only Bengaluru's second foul of the evening.
15' NorthEast United has completely dominated the opening quarter of play. The side boats 64 percent possession, 106 passes (twice that of Bengaluru) and a sole shot.
12' What a move! Gallego plays a teasing cross towards Redeem Tlang and Serran makes a fine interception to clear it for a corner.
10' Headed away! A sweet move from sees NEUFC pile up the bodies in the box but the Bengaluru defence clears the cross with ease.
8' Leudo lets one rip from distance, gets phenomenal power on the ball, but can't keep it on target.
5' The home side is at it again! Gallego does extremely well to intercept Barrera's pass and Gurpreet is forced to race off his line to clear the ball. Nervous couple of minutes for the Bengaluru defence.
3' Risky! A decent cross comes into the box and Bheke is caught in an awkward position. He manages to get a meek header towards 'keeper Gurpreet and the attack is thwarted.
1' Bengaluru FC gets a freekick straight from kickoff. Miku is fouled but the set piece is cleared with ease.
Marshalled by the charismatic Eelco Schattorie, NorthEast United FC put on a spirited display to finish fourth and claim its first playoff spot. Standing in its way is previous edition's runner up, Bengaluru FC.
"Volcanoes have erupted, we walk through this together," says the banner. Can NEUFC put away its miseries at home and claim a crucial win tonight?
It's a party in Guwahati!
The line-ups are out!:
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Rahul Bheke, Albert Serran, Juanan, Harmanjot Khabra, Nishu Kumar, Udanta Singh, Dimas Delgado, Alejandro Garcia Barrera, Sunil Chhetri (C), Miku.
NorthEast United FC: Pawan Kumar (GK), Janeiler Rivas, Reagan Singh, Mato Grgic, Robert Lalthlamuana, Redeem Tlang, Lalthathanga Khawlhring, Rowllin Borges, Federico Gallego, Jose Leudo, Bartholomew Ogbeche (C).
-> Under Eelco Schattorie's guidance, NorthEast United FC has qualified for the Indian Super League playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Aashin Prasad breaks down the side's impressive campaign thus far: Uncharted waters for NorthEast United
Here's what Bengaluru defender Rahul Bheke has to say ahead of this evening's clash:
-> For a second consecutive season, Bengaluru FC has finished on top of the Indian Super League table. But this campaign has been about the team doing just enough – in the final matches especially – rather than being the dominant force it was last season. Anirudh Velamuri breaks down the Blues' run to the semifinals: Off-colour Bengaluru needs to find itself
NorthEast United FC's eagerness will come to test against the gritty Bengaluru FC as the play-off stage of the Indian Super League gets underway in search of a new champion, here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Thursday. The first match of the double-leg fixture will be keeping the visitor ahead on form as the host looks to invoke the excitement of its maiden play-off qualification to cause an upset.
Bengaluru has three wins and a draw in four meetings between the two sides. Their match in Guwahati earlier this season ended in a 1-1 draw. The home side’s head coach Eelco Schattorie acknowledged the fact that his side will be facing “the best club in India” but refused to be cowed down by the statistical factor.
FULL ISL COVERAGE
“We played them twice (this season) and we played really well on both occasions. In the first meeting at home, they drew (against) us with a last minute goal and while visiting them we should have won for having created more chances,” Schattorie said assessing the strengths of his side.
“In the last 10-12 matches it was like fixing a big puzzle each time while selecting the team. It is going to be the same for me tomorrow but my team is surely going give a good fight and play for the badge on their shirts,” said Schattorie, looking at a long list of injuries and the suspension of his defender Gurwinder Singh.
However, the host will be compensated by the return of Colombian defensive midfielder Jose Leudo. Schattorie hoped that the combination of Nigerian Bartholomew Ogbeche and Uruguayan Federico Gallego in the attack will come good once more.
Bengaluru, which finished on top of the league standings for the second successive season, will be the side to beat which has the best attacking trio of Sunil Chhetri, Udanata Singh and Miku in its line-up. “NorthEast has its weapons (and) so do we. People say that we had some problems against them but they got one point and we got four. It will be a good game with lot of passion, which is great for football,” Carles Cuadrat, the Bengaluru head coach, put in his case.
The Blues will be missing defender Gursimrat Singh Gill from suspension while its midfield workhorse Erik Paartalu is out of the tournament with injury. Cuadrat, now, will have to find out a good replacement in the middle of the park, which may well be the new Spanish midfielder Alex Barrera signed recently.