Koke strike seals win for NorthEast United
GUWAHATI, OCTOBER 13
NorthEast United FC started their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign on a perfect note as they edged past Kerala Blasters 1-0 at the Indira Gandhi International Stadium, Guwahati on Monday evening.
Koke scored the winner in the 45th minute as the youngest side of the ISL registered three pointsRicki Herbert lined-up his side in a 4-4-1-1 formation with marquee signing Joan Capdevila operating as a left back as they beefed their defense with star goalkeeper Alexsander Tsorvas.
On the other hand, David James started between the sticks for Kerala Blasters with Iain Hume and CS Sabeeth starting upfront as Michael Chopra was benched due to being unfit.
It was the north east side which started better of the two as the sides played cautiously in order to avoid conceding an early goal. James Keene did well upfront as he held the ball up on a couple of occasions but his attempted pass for Zohmingliana Ralte was intercepted.
In the 16th minute, Hume thought he had done enough to put his side ahead as he tapped in a perfect Stephen Pearson cross but was rightly flagged offside.
Thereafter, Penn Orji began to dictate proceedings from the middle of the park. Robin Gurung did well to intercept a through ball from Pearson as Sabeeth was lurking around inside the box and would have been through on goal.
Just after the half way mark in the first half, Sabeeth’s venomous shot from outside the box tested Tsorvas’ resolve as the Greek custodian had to stretch to his right in order to keep the score level.
Thereafter, it was David James’ turn to make a fantastic save as he denied Durga Boro whose long range effort seemed destined for goal in the 32nd minute.
The breakthrough came in the 45th minute when Koke put the home side ahead. Aibor Khongjee took a throw-in towards David Nghaite however, Gurwinder Singh’s attempted clearance went as far as Koke. The Spaniard didn’t need to take a second touch as he smashed it on the half volley to the right of David James which gave him no chance whatsoever.
In the second half, Kerala Blasters had the first chance in the 55th minute when James McAllister’s corner-kick saw Cedric Hengbart rise the highest but the effort was easily collected by Tsorvas.
McAllister was lucky not to collect a booking after he pulled down Felipe de Castro around the hour mark.
In their search for an equalizer, James brought in Michael Chopra and Saumik Dey with Pearson and Sabeeth being subbed.
Orji and Hume combined well as the former found Hume whose return pass saw the Nigerian caught in an offside position and Chopra tapped the ball home after the whistle had been blown, much to the delight of the home fans.
Keene attempted a long range shot in the 76th minute which didn’t bother James in goal.
Tsorvas was called into action by Chopra who did well to get past a couple of NorthEast United players to unleash a fierce right footed shot which was parried away by the home side’s goalkeeper. Substitute Dong-Hyun Do showcased his dribbling abilities as he cut inside from the right only to see his shot take a deflection off Gurwinder to earn a side corner in the 80th minute.
Hume did well to turn away from the NorthEast United defenders and saw his shot being cleared off the line by Boithang Haokip. The ball fell to an unmarked Chopra who had enough time to place his shot but instead struck it into the bodies on the line. Chopra had an opportunity he shouldn’t have missed as Tsorvas’ goal-kick went straight to him and the English striker saw his shot go wide with an empty net staring at him.
Both teams missed a flurry of chances in added time. Ricki Herbert’s team should have wrapped up the game when Dong went romping down the middle prompting David James to come out of his line to save. The ball fell to Milan Singh whose attempted chip was inches over the bar.
Iain Hume will have nightmares when in the fourth minute of added time, a quick Andrew Barisic throw in found Hume unmarked in the box. His shot however went wide off the goal much to the relief of Tzorvas who couldn’t have reached it.
North East United next host Atletico de Kolkata while Kerala Blasters go away to take on Chennaiyin FC.