Zequinha’s strike downs Highlanders at home
Defending champions ATK edged NorthEast United FC 1 – 0 in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday. Portuguese playmaker Zequinha scored a second half winner with a superb volley to hand his team all three points.
The game started with ATK pressing the NorthEast defence by carrying forward wave after wave of attacks, while also winning a few corners. The hosts did all they could to soak up the pressure during an anxious opening period but managed to weather the early storm.
The 24th minute brought the first real chance of the game. Zequinha cut in from the left flank and let fly, aiming for the top corner. The ball, however, sailed inches over the crossbar. Four minutes later, and from the Highlanders’ first corner, an opportunity was fashioned when Malemngamba Meitei’s ball found an unguarded Sambinha whose free header was off target.
Seven minutes from the break, and the visitors had a glorious chance when Ryan Taylor opened up the defence with a deftly lobbed ball to put Jayesh Rane through on goal. But the latter took too much time with the ball, allowing Sambinha to track back and block his eventual shot. It proved to be the last opportunity of the half as the teams went into the break without the deadlock being broken.
A minute after the break, the home side nearly took the lead when Danilo Lopes turned his marker and released a powerful shot from the edge of the penalty box. Custodian Debjit Majumder though, came up with a superb fingertip save while at full stretch.
In the 54th minute, the defending champions had a good chance themselves when Taylor floated in a ball into the box from a free-kick. However, Jordi Montel’s free header was just wide off the far post to the disappointment of the visitors.
Twenty minutes from time, Zequinha broke the offside trap to get behind the defence, but his shot from a slightly difficult angle was met with a save from Highlanders goalkeeper TP Rehenesh. Taylor’s shot from the follow-up then got deflected behind for a corner.
Three minutes later, the two-time champions finally got their much-deserved lead. Robin Singh’s shot was parried away by Rehenesh, and Sambinha’s weak header away led to the ball falling for Zequinha who took a touch and fired home an exquisite volley right into the top corner.
NorthEast almost found an equaliser in the 77th minute when Halicharan Narzary cut in from the left and unleashed a curling effort that just flashed inches wide of Debjit’s far post. The hosts then, did all they could to press the ATK backline for what remained of the game, but failed to create any openings as the defence held strong. With the 1 – 0 scoreline, the defending champions got their third win of the campaign and jumped to sixth spot on the table.
Club Award: ATK
Swift Moment of the Match: TP Rehenesh
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Ryan Taylor
Amul Fittest Player: Danilo Lopes
Emerging Player: Prabir Das
Hero of the Match: Zequinha
Watch the match highlights here: