NorthEast United FC will return from Kochi with a point to their name after drawing 1-1 against Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to round off an entertaining double header Saturday in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24.

The Highlanders began the game positively, with their first attacking move resulting in a goal by Nestor Albiach. The visitors had been gradually exerting pressure on Kerala’s backline. They moved up the field from the left flank, before Mohammed Ali Bemammer brought down a cross in the middle and played it to Jithin Madathil Subran on the right wing. Jithin showed impressive control in a tight space and released a pass to Nestor inside the box. The Spaniard never looked in doubt as he calmly slotted his shot past Sachin Suresh to hand his side a lead in the 12th minute.

Kerala needed a quick response and they got that through their fullback Naocha Singh. The 24-year-old was unmarked on the left flank and he pounced upon that opportunity by shooting strongly from distance. The ball was hit on target but got saved on time by Mirshad Michu, who helped his team hold on to their lead. Adrian Luna tried to optimise the goal-scoring chance as he lobbed a ball inside the 18-yard box, quite close to the goalpost. However, the delivery found no takers and the Blasters entered the halftime break searching for the equaliser.

Their wait didn’t last long, and Luna was at the centre of it all. The team earned a free kick on the left side of the ground, merely a couple of minutes after the game resumed. The Uruguayan international attempted a similar pass, as he had done in the first half. However, this time around, Danish Farooq made a run at the right time to head the ball into the back of the net. Farooq broke into a joyous celebration as the Manjappada happily celebrated their newest hero, who had also scored against Mumbai City FC earlier this month.

Nestor dropped back to initiate a move that could ensure his team regained control over the proceedings. The ploy worked, as he drew defenders towards him as he brought the duo of Konsam Phalguni Singh and Míchel Zabaco into offensive action in the left flank. Zabaco curled in a cross to Jithin, who had plenty of space to bring the ball down and shoot it into the net. However, the 25-year-old instead headed the ball and it acquired neither enough pace nor the right direction to trouble Suresh between the sticks. NorthEast thus bagged their second consecutive draw after a similar 1-1 result against Punjab FC in the third matchweek.

Key Performer of the Match

Danish Farooq (Kerala Blasters FC)

The 27-year-old recorded another impactful performance, comprising a goal along with an interception, clearance, and 71% passing accuracy. His interlinking with Luna both in open play as well as from set pieces add a unique layer to Kerala’s attacking moves.

What’s next for both teams?

Next up, NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters will host Jamshedpur FC and Odisha FC on October 26 and October 27 respectively.

Brief Scores

Kerala Blasters 1 (Danish Farooq 49’) – 1 NorthEast United FC (Nestor Albiach 12’)