NorthEast United's Borges ticks all the right boxes

Rowllin Borges, who scored NorthEast United's winner against Chennaiyin FC last week, has re-emerged in the middle of the park, making his presence felt at both ends of the pitch as a box-to-box midfielder.

NorthEast United FC's Rowllin Borges in action against Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League last week.   -  SPORTZPICS

"It (the turnaround) was more about looking at ourselves and being more aware than anything else," NorthEast United coach Eelco Schattorie told reporters after his side staged a dramatic comeback to beat Chennaiyin FC 4-3 here on Thursday.

His central midfielder Rowllin Borges epitomised those words when he put behind the disappointment of scoring an own goal by netting the winner. The three points gave NorthEast its best start in five seasons of the Indian Super League.

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Rowllin has re-emerged in the middle of the park, making his presence felt at both ends of the pitch as a box-to-box midfielder. Avram Grant, under whom Schattorie was assistant to at the club last season, played Rowllin in a holding role in a two-man midfield. Schattorie, however, identified more attributes in the 6' tall, strapping midfielder.

"Rowllin has the ability to play also as a holding midfielder," he said. "He has the ability to score goals and the physical ability to go box-to-box. He also has the technical ability to be creative and I think that role (no. 8) fits him the best," added Schattorie.

Rowllin Borges celebrates after scoring a last-gasp winner against ATK last week.   -  PTI


Rowllin’s statistics from the opening three matches will offer Schattorie vindication. In 270 minutes this season, he has 63 passes, 75 touches and four tackles per game. In the 2017-18 season, Rowllin averaged 46 passes, 54 touches and three tackles per game in 1424 minutes. His passing completion rate, too, stands at a commendable 86 per cent, an eight per cent increase from last year.

The Goan footballer already has four shots this campaign — one more than last season’s effort — and opened his ISL goalscoring account when he headed in a late winner against ATK last week.

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Only 11 Indian central midfielders have played 180 minutes this year and Rowllin’s statistics make him stand above his peers with only Chennaiyin's Germanpreet Singh and FC Goa's Lenny Rodrigues shading him in the number of tackles (six) made per game. The two midfielders, however, play in a deeper role for their teams.

These are early days in the season but Dutchman Schattorie has brought about a fresh identity to the Highlanders, which has been regarded as a perennial underachiever.

Operating in his favoured 4-3-3 system, NorthEast plays a possession-oriented football with its three central midfielders playing a key role in its success. Schattorie has expressed his desire to play with a no. 10 (creative midfielder), a no. 8 (box-to-box midfielder) and a no. 6 (holding midfielder) to carry out his methods.

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NorthEast dipped into the transfer market and brought in reinforcements from overseas to take up the role of the creative force − Federico Gallego − and the defensive enforcer − Jose David Leudo. For the box-to-box role, Schattorie identified someone closer to home in the Rowllin − one of the five players retained from last season’s dismal campaign.

Despite the team trailing 2-0 in 15 minutes against Chennaiyin, the midfield trio continued to play its passing football, which was key to the turnaround. The movement of Rowllin and Gallego alongside Leudo often proved a menace to Anirudh Thapa and Inigo Calderon.

NorthEast's quick, pass-and-move play resulted in captain Bartholomew Ogbeche scoring a hat-trick in 10 minutes, between the 29th and 39th minute. Rowllin played in Ogbeche for his second goal with a sumptuous lobbed pass which culminated at the end of NorthEast’s 19-pass move.

Rowllin Borges in action for the India national team during the 2018 Intercontinental Cup held in Mumbai.   -  Prashant Nakwe


The coach doesn’t believe Rowllin is a complete midfielder yet. “He needs to work more on his controlling techniques but that is a process,” said Schattorie. “He also has a really good potential. His real quality is to go forward and score goals and he has proven that now in the games,” he continued.

The 26-year-old has fallen behind the likes of Thapa and Pronay Halder in the starting line-up for the national team after a subdued season with NorthEast in 2017-18. However, if Rowllin’s continues to impress, he might tempt national coach Stephen Constantine to reconsider his plans with the AFC Asian Cup in the horizon.

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