NorthEast United FC are through to the semi-final of the Indian Super League after a 2-0 victory over Kerala Blasters on Friday. Goals from Suhair VP and Apuia Lalengmawia were enough for NorthEast United FC to beat a rather disappointing Kerala Blasters side.
Under their interim coach Ishwaq Ahmed, Kerala Blasters opted for a 4-4-2 formation whereas North East opted to go with a 4-3-3. NorthEast, who are unbeaten in their last eight games since Khalid Jamil took charge, only needed a point to qualify for the playoffs. Meanwhile, Kerala who are struggling with poor form this season are without a win in their last seven games. There have been four draws in the last five meetings between these two teams. Interestingly, Kerala haven’t beaten NorthEast since 2018.
NorthEast United started the game at a high tempo as they wasted no time in putting a ball into the box. Machado delivered an exceptional cross into the far post for Fox who miscued his shot and sent the ball wide. Kerala also managed to open up the play at the other end, but failed to convert in front of goal. Bakary Kone somehow managed to find himself in goalscoring positions more than once in the first 15 minutes for KBFC but nothing came of these.
Both teams failed to open up the play in the first 20 minutes as they struggled to hold onto the ball. Blasters failure in the final third was quite clearly visible as their crosses into the box had been fallacious and simple for Subhasish Roy to deal with.
However, the first breakthrough of the game happened in the 34th minute when Kone’s poor positioning helped Khassa Camara place a through ball for Suhair, who got into the box, rounded the keeper and made it 1-0 for NEUFC. Meanwhile, Kerala continued to create chances but failed to have a shot on target at the other end.
With Blasters leaving more space in the middle, NEUFC went further ahead after a sensational strike from Lalengmawia in the 45th minute of the game. Luis Machado’s overhit cross was played to Lalengmawia, who cracked a long-range strike that went in off the underside of the crossbar to make it 2-0 for NEUFC.
The second half kicked off in style in favour of KBFC as Rahul KP’s early effort went begging in front of goal. Luis Machado almost sent NorthEast three goals ahead but was denied in front of goal by Albino Gomes in the last minute. Sansheep Singh’s sloppy performance continued to the detriment of the KBFC defence with Deshorn Brown hitting the bar minutes later.
Blasters failed to mount a comeback after the break as they got pinned more and more into their own half. KBFC failed to achieve even a single shot on goal despite creating 12 chances in front of goal. The results wind up a disappointing season for KBFC as they finish 10th in the table with just 17 points in 20 matches. However, for the Highlanders, they have finally managed to secure their place in the Semi-Finals of the Indian Super League.
Odisha FC will face East Bengal on 27th February at 7:30 PM IST. Meanwhile, FC Goa will face Hyderabad FC on 28th February at 5:00 PM IST.