First-half strikes give Odisha FC crucial win over NorthEast United FC

Odisha FC climbed to fifth place in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) table after a 2-0 win over NorthEast United FC at the PJN stadium in Margao, Goa on Tuesday.

The three points bring Odisha FC right back in the mix for the semi-final spots but puts a major dent in the Highlanders’ hopes of making the top four.

Daniel Lalhlimpuia (17’) ended a long goal drought in Hero ISL to put Odisha FC in front before Aridai Suarez (22’) doubled the advantage which they were able to protect to collect all three points.

Playing for the first time since the departure of head coach Kiko Ramirez, Odisha FC started on the front foot forcing mistakes from the Highlanders as Suarez almost profited after intercepting a wayward pass from Mashoor Shereef in the fourth minute. But his shot was wide of the target.

However, it was NorthEast United FC who created the first big chance of the match only for Mapuia to squander it in the 16th minute.

Odisha FC made NorthEast United FC pay for it almost immediately as Suarez set up Lalhlimpuia for a tap-in at the far post with a brilliant low cross that travelled across the face of the goal to meet the Indian at the far post.

Suarez then added a second for Odisha FC as his shot slipped beneath Mirshad Michu in the 22nd minute. The goalkeeper would have been disappointed with his effort as the shot was fairly in the centre of the goal and well within his reach.

The Highlanders had a chance to pull a goal back instantly as Imran Khan put in a measured cross for Suhair VP who couldn’t keep his header on target.

Lalkhawpuimawia then had another chance with a header from a Provat Lakhra cross but he put it wide as the Highlanders remained two goal adrift.

Odisha FC picked up the pace again towards the end of the first half but couldn’t add to the score as they went in with the 2-0 scoreline in their favour.

Laldanmawia Ralte replaced Lalkhawpuimawia at the break for NorthEast United FC but it was Odisha FC who created the first chance of the second half. Javi Herandez’s free-kick was only partially cleared as it fell back to him. The Spaniard’s resultant shot needed saving from Michu with the loose ball falling to Victor Mongil who couldn’t keep his effort on target four minutes after the restart.

Hernan Santana then went close for NorthEast United FC as his shot in the 51st minute kissed the crossbar to go out of play.

Michu then kept NorthEast United FC in the match after he denied Nandhakumar Sekar who was clear on goal with a crucial save after the hour mark.

As the Highlanders pushed ahead in search of the goals, Odisha FC kept getting chances on the counter-attack but couldn’t make the most of it.

NorthEast United FC were unlucky after they had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside in the dying minutes when Laldanmawia Ralte had poked in a low cross home. The linesman got it wrong as the Highlanders couldn’t get on the scoresheet.

The referee blew for full-time to hand Odisha FC the points as they picked up their second win in three matches.

NorthEast United FC now need to win almost all the remaining games to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals as the defeat sees them remain in tenth place with just nine points in their kitty.

Khalid Jamil’s men are back in action on Saturday when they take on Chennaiyin FC. Odisha FC now enjoy a bit of a break as they face Hyderabad FC in their next match on January 27.

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