Halicharan Narzary shines as clinical Hyderabad eases past NorthEast United￼
The defending champions faced off against NorthEast United in the second game of matchday 2 with both sides looking for their first win of the new campaign.
Coach Marco Balbul would have wanted to put that disappointment behind them as they played hosts to Manolo Marquez’s side at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.
The match began with both sides exchanging some early punches but it was Hyderabad who delivered a knockout blow as Bartholomew Ogbeche netted in from close range following a sumptuous free-kick from Mohammad Yasir that set it up on a plate for the former.
There was an early shout for a penalty as well, just six minutes after the kick-off, as Halicharan Narzary crossed for Javier Siverio and the ball appeared to hit Michael Jakobsen on his hand, but it didn’t look intentional so the referee wasn’t too interested.
Narzary proved to be a menace down the left flank as he fed Siverio shortly after, but he couldn’t find a way past Arindam Bhattacharya. Ogbeche then went close with another cutback from Narzary but the Nigerian star forward put too much behind his effort as the ball sailed over the goal harmlessly.
It was a frustrating first half for the home side as they couldn’t muster up a single shot at the goal with the defending champs proving to be a tough bull to tame.
The visitors went into the break with a slender one-goal lead but they would have been kicking themselves as they failed to add to their goal tally despite having chances aplenty.
After trailing for a half, the hosts started the second half in good spirits as they tried to create a couple of half chances but couldn’t test Laxmikant Kattimani in goal.
However, the John Abraham-owned outfit was punished for a wild challenge by Gaurav Bora who appeared to kick Ogbeche and the referee didn’t flinch before pointing to the spot.
The highest goalscorer in the history of ISL hadn’t missed a single penalty up until that point, scoring all eight chances that came his way but his effort was palmed away with ease by Arindam who continued to impress between the sticks.
Shortly before the hour mark, the NorthEast keeper came to his side’s rescue again, with Siverio going close on two occasions, but he failed to find a way past the veteran custodian.
The Highlanders had their best chance of the game in the 60th minute, as substitute Rochharzela worked his way down the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect ball to Matt Derbyshire who somehow fluffed his effort with the whole of the goal to aim for.
The Nizams continued to pile the pressure and their persistence was rewarded as they punished Bora for his lack of concentration. The defender tried to play out from the back, but Narzary picked his pocket and finished with aplomb to finally get some clear daylight between the two teams. It was curtains for NorthEast in the 72nd minute as Marquez brought on Borja Herrera to replace Siverio.
Within a minute after coming on, he latched onto a poor clearance from the home side and drove towards the goal. He tried to play Narzary in behind, but the latter cut it back for Spaniard and he finished calmly to put the game to bed.
Towards the closing stages of the match, it became an end-to-end affair with plenty of chances at both ends. Four minutes before the end of regulation time, Ogbeche could have had his second of the night as he unleashed a rocket from near the edge of the box that rattled the crossbar and went out for a goal kick.
From the last action of the match, Balbul’s side struck the woodwork once again through Rochharzela but there was no respite for them. The defending champions climbed atop the league standings with a win, while the Highlanders dropped to the foot of the table after two losses.
The Men in Yellow come up against the reigning Durand Cup champions Bengaluru next Saturday while the Highlanders face East Bengal on Thursday.