Highlanders maintain winning momentum with victory over Stallions

NorthEast United FC climbed to second place in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 standings with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over FC Pune City at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Tuesday.

  • Bartholomew Ogbeche bagged his eight goal of the season in the 23rdminute.
  • Juan Mascia sealed the victory with a penalty in added time of the second half.
  • Pune City created a host of chances but failed to take advantage.

The match began on an even note with both sides creating a few half-chances but Ashique Kuruniyan was the one who nearly broke the deadlock for Pune in the 12th minute. After Rowllin Borges failed to clear his lines from a corner, the ball fell to the youngster near the edge of the box. His shot evaded the crowd of bodies but could not get past Pawan Kumar in goal.

The Highlanders seemed riled by that save and soon drove forward in search of the opener. Ogbeche nearly did so in the 21st minute, when he beat Pune’s offside trap to have a free shot at goal. However, Kamaljit Singh displayed exceptional reflexes to parry the ball away.

A couple of minutes later, Ogbcehe would not be denied his goal. The captain was the first to react to a loose ball from a corner kick and tap home into an empty net.

Surprisingly the goal seemed to give the hosts the much-needed motivation as they would go on to create a host of chances. The first major one fell to Iain Hume, who was put through on goal by a sublimely lofted ball from Sahil Panwar. However, his first touch failed him, affording the keeper time to cover the danger.

The Stallions continued to mount pressure on the Highlanders and nearly equalised towards the end of the half. Matt Mills ghosted through unmarked inside the penalty box and delivered a powerful header from Marcelo Pereira’s corner. Kumar was once again on hand to save well and ensure that NorthEast went into the break with a slender 1-0 advantage.

Pradyum Reddy’s men started the second half in the same way they ended the first, dominating most of the possession.  The visitors were finding it hard to cope with Mills’ aerial presence from set-pieces. Towards the hour-mark, the Englishman once again caused problems from a corner. His flicked header fell to the path of substitute Marko Stankovic, who could not squeeze the ball into the net.

A few minutes later, Mills was again present to create a chance for the hosts from a set-piece situation. His chested lay-off found Robin Singh inside the box. Robin’s shot though shot was directed straight at the keeper.

As the match reached its final quarter, Pune nearly found the equaliser through a swift counter attack. Adil Khan released substitute Nikhil Poojari, who raced through on goal. With custodian Kumar rushing towards him, all Poojari needed to do was slide the ball into an empty net. However, the angle proved too tight for the youngster as the NorthEast defenders managed to comfortably clear their lines.

In the final minute of normal time, NorthEast United were awarded a penalty after Mascia was brought down inside the box by Panwar. The Uruguayan stepped up to take the penalty and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner to seal the victory and a crucial three points.

Hero of the Match – Federico Gallego

Once again Federico Gallego proved instrumental for Eelco Schattorie’s men. The Uruguayan was a constant threat to Pune with his lung bursting runs from the centre of the park. He was also the chief supplier for Mascia and Ogbeche whenever the Highlanders broke on the counter. He was deservedly awarded the Hero of the Match.

MATCH AWARDS

Club Award – NorthEast United FC

Swift Limitless Player of the Match – Bartholomew Ogbeche

DHL Winning Pass of the Match – Federico Gallego

ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Ashique Kuruniyan

Hero of the Match – Federico Gallego

WHAT’S NEXT?

Pune City will hope to salvage their season when they travel away to table-toppers Bengaluru FC on November 30 while NorthEast play away against Jamshedpur FC on December 1.

Watch the match highlights here:

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