After beating Mumbai in an away game on October 24, NorthEast have not recorded another victory in Hero Indian Super League in over a month. But that did not deter more than 30000 home supporters from cheering their heroes as the home side locked horns with table toppers Chennaiyin FC on Thursday. Playing great football, NEUFC scored an impressive 3-0 win over the visitors that catapulted them from bottom of the table to no.5 spot in tournament standings. In an explosive first half display, NorthEast United produced 3 goals in a space of less than 15 minutes to bring the stadium alive. The home side’s Senegalese recruit Massamba scored twice in quick succession and that made Chennaiyin FC’s task herculean as they tried to come back into the match for the rest of its long duration. Though the visitors kept attacking NEUFC goal, the target remained elusive. Even after NorthEast’s marquee player Joan Capdevila was expelled in the 72nd minute, Chennai failed to capitalize on the hosts’ reduced strength. Though Chennaiyin FC continue to lead in the tournament, NEUFC have kept their hopes of a semifinal spot alive with this victory,
As the match began, NorthEast United started attacking straightaway. In the 4th minute, Koke collected the ball in midfield, charged ahead and managed to send a pass to Boithang but NEUFC failed to capitalize as Chennai’s Bernard Mendy averted the danger. In the 6th minute, Koke sent another lovely pass for Garcia who found Adinga on the left flank. It looked like a great chance as Adinga’s curling cross inside the box was misjudged by Chennai goalkeeper but unfortunately, Kondwani Mtonga headed the cross over the bar. In the 10th minute, Djemba-Djemba’s headed clearance struck Seiminlen Doungel and the ball came in the path of Durga Boro. The Assamese striker pounced on the opportunity and shot past the Chennai goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano to make it 1-0 for NEUFC. First 15 minutes completely belonged to the home side as the play was confined to the Chennaiyin FC’s half. In 20th minute, Koke’s floating free kick from the right flank dropped inside the box and in an ensuing melee, a defender’s clearance came to Adinga but his strike was deflected by Bracigliano for a corner. Koke took a great corner that came to Massamba. The Senegalese defender leapt high and flicked the ball into the goal to make it 2-0 for the hosts. Two minutes later, Koke produced a high curling free kick that came floating near Massamba, who rose to his full height for a powerful header that found the far corner of the net. It was now 3-0 for NEUFC.
Left red-faced so early in the game, Chennaiyin FC began looking for attacks. Their game acquired a rough edge with Djemba-Djemba earning a yellow card in 30th minute for tripping Durga Boro. Three minutes later, NorthEast came tantalizingly close to making it 4-0, when Durga ran with the ball on right flank but Felipe couldn’t head the ball in from Durga’s low cross. On two occasions in the 35th and 37th minutes, Doungel had promising chances but on the first, he failed to shoot past the Chennai goalkeeper and later Mendy stopped him.
Chennai made two changes in second half, when Jayesh and Cristian came in for Jeje and Pelissari. In 49th minute, Balwant went solo but the move didn’t work. In tackling with Balwant, Joan Capdevila allowed the ball to fall in the path of Djemba-Djemba whose header went to Cristian. The Chennai player tapped the ball into the goal but Cristian was ruled off-side. Under pressure from Chennai, NEUFC began faltering in their defense. In 53rd minute, poor defending gave a chance to Jayesh but the Chennai substitute lobbed the ball into the crowd. In 59th minute, Maurice sent a nice through ball for Cristian who crossed it for Balwant in front of the goal. But Balwant allowed the ball to beat him. In the next minute, Maurice broke free again but his powerful strike from the edge of the box was punched away by Rehenesh. Koke got a standing ovation for his brilliant work as he walked out in the 62nd minute to make way for Leo Bertos. In the last 25 minutes Chennaiyin FC had an uphill task of scoring 3 goals to equalize and though they played attacking football, it was a bit too much for them. In 72nd minute, NEUFC were down to 10-men as Capdevila received his second yellow card after he brought down Maurice. With a man down, NEUFC tried to fortify their defense even as Chennai continued to mount pressure. They raided the NEUFC goal area several times but couldn’t find the target. The match ended with a 3-0 home victory for the hosts.
In ISL 2014, Chennai have emerged as an attacking team and despite some losses, they look like the best side in the League with star striker Elano being the top scorer with 8 goals. Chennai play another away game at Kochi with Kerala on Sunday while NEUFC will be hosted by FC Goa on December 1.