NorthEast United FC put in a blistering performance to thump Churchill Brothers FC and secured qualification for the Hero Super Cup semi-finals in style. Wilmar Jordan Gil netted four goals while Gani Nigam and Jithin MS scored one each as the Highlanders ran out 6-3 winners in their final Group D game at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala, on Wednesday.

NorthEast United FC came out of their blocks and put Churchill Brothers FC under pressure right from the beginning of the game. The lively NEUFC skipper had his first real attempt in the 11th minute as he tried to chip over the keeper from the edge of the box, but missed the target by a fine margin.

In the 19th minute, Tondonba Singh floated an inswinging corner and Gil leapt above his marker, but his header was wide of the mark. Seconds later, Churchill Brothers FC keeper’ Nora Fernandes was called into action after his defence failed to clear the ball twice and the keeper was well-aware as he parried away the right-footed shot from Gil.

As the clock struck 27 minutes, the NEUFC skipper finally got his name on the scoresheet with an imposing strike into the top corner from 25 yards out. The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) side almost doubled their lead through Joe Zoherliana but his first-time effort was comfortably saved by the keeper.

The Highlanders scored their second goal before the half-time break as Gil slotted it home into an empty net.

With Churchill Brothers needing to push men forward for the equaliser, attack was the best form of defence for NorthEast United FC and they rightfully did so. The Colombian forward completed his hat-trick in the 51st minute when he stretched his leg at the near post to turn Tondonba’s excellent delivery into the net.

Three minutes later, Churchill Brothers FC pulled one back through Kingslee Fernandes. Martin Chaves reduced the deficit further for the Goan side by scoring a stunning free-kick from the edge of the penalty box.

Gil scored his fourth of the night and made it 4-2 for the Highlanders with a composed left-footed strike. NEUFC extended their lead further with Kerala duo Jithin MS and Gani Nigam combining well inside the opposition's final third, with the latter providing the finishing touch.

Churchill Brothers FC had their third goal of the night as NEUFC defender Mohammed Irshad headed into his own goal. However, the Highlanders restored their three-goal lead in the stoppage time when Jithin MS found the back of the net with a great finish and NorthEast United FC stormed into the semi-finals of the Hero Super Cup.

NorthEast United FC will now take on Odisha FC in the second semi-final of the Hero Super Cup on Saturday.

Mumbai City FC register hard-fought win over Chennaiyin FC 

In the other fixture in Group D, Mumbai City FC edged past Chennaiyin FC 1-0 at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri, Kerala. Ayush Chhikira scored the solitary goal for the Islanders from a Bipin Singh’ cross as the all-Indian MCFC squad registered their second win in the Hero Super Cup.

Mumbai City FC finished second in Group D due to inferior Head-to-Head points with NorthEast United FC, who bagged the same number of points. Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, ended their campaign in third position with four points.