NorthEast United downs Goa 2-0 to strengthen claims for a playoff spot

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NorthEast United entered the top six with this win

Matchweek 16 of the 2023-24 season of the Indian Super League started with a match between Goa and NorthEast United, where the Highlanders handed the Gaurs a 2-0 defeat. A Tomi Juric penalty and an Odei Onaindia goal comprised the two goals scored by NorthEast United.

Goa head coach Manolo Marquez Roca made two changes to the team that lost 0-1 against Mohun Bagan Super Giant in their last game. New signings Nim Dorjee Tamang and Borja Herrera were handed starts at the expense of Raynier Fernandes and Noah Sadaoui.

On the other hand, NorthEast United gaffer Juan Pedro Benali made two changes to his team after a 2-4 defeat against Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Hamza Regragui replaced Louis Nickson Macarton, whereas to maintain the overseas players’ count, Nestor Albiach had to make way for Bekey Oram.

Goa made their attacking intent clear right from the first minute and created their first chance in the 2nd minute. Left-back Jay Gupta got his head to a Herrera cross but could not keep his attempt on target.

Only a minute later, Herrera delivered another dangerous cross into the box and NorthEast United custodian Mirshad Michu made a meal of it. The rebound fell to Gupta’s head, whose attempt then struck Carl McHugh’s head before somehow missing the back of the net.

The next big chance of the match came in the 10th minute when Regragui lost possession in a dangerous area and McHugh pounced on the opportunity, threading a pass for Carlos Martinez. The Spaniard kept his shot on target but Michu was equal to the task.

The chances kept on pouring for the Gaurs. In the 13th minute, Herrera found himself at the receiving end of a cross after creating multiple chances for his teammates. A cross from the left flank by Brandon Fernandes found the Kalinga Super Cup winner unmarked, but the header was wayward.

It took the Highlanders 23 minutes to create their first opportunity and they even found the back of the net. Trying to gather a blocked Juric attempt, Goa goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh lost his bearings and ended up giving a simple chance to Redeem Tlang. Although the former Goa winger scored past Arshdeep, he was deemed to be in an offside position.

That was all about NorthEast United’s attacking moves in the first half as the pendulum once again swung in Goa’s favor. In the 36th minute, Martinez played a through ball for Boris Singh who did well to lose his marker but could not keep his shot on target.

The next few minutes saw Gupta getting two chances. In the 39th minute, he made a darting run before pulling the trigger from a distance but his shot was miles away from troubling Michu. Only two minutes later, he got his head to another Herrera cross but could not score again.

The last chance of the half came in injury time when a precise corner from Brandon found McHugh totally unmarked inside the box. However, the former Reading midfielder joined Gupta on the list of players to have missed easy chances.

The second half started exactly how the first half did as Goa took only two minutes to have their first attempt. Having found himself in space outside the box, Martinez pulled the trigger but failed to test Michu.

Another chance came in the 50th minute when Herrera launched a grounded cross from the left flank. While his attempt was intercepted, the rebound fell to Brandon who dragged his shot wide.

The galore of missed chances had more additions. Six minutes after Brandon wasted his opportunity, Martinez found another chance following a pinball situation inside the box, but the former La Masia member simply did not wear his scoring boots today.

Jay Gupta had plenty of attempts, but none of them resulted in a goal

Totally against the run of play, NorthEast United had a glorious chance in the 64th minute. A long ball from right-back Dinesh Singh caught Goa’s backline napping as Juric found himself through on goal with only Arshdeep to beat, but he dragged his shot wide.

But the Highlanders did not have to wait long for their goal. In the 69th minute, Macarton received a ball from Mohammed Ali Bemammer and laid it off for Juric who was brought down by Seriton Fernandes. The Australian striker made no mistake from the spot.

That goal sprung the Highlanders back to life. In the 74th minute, another Dinesh ball found Jithin MS, but the winger could not generate any power on his header. 

Six minutes later, NorthEast United scored their insurance goal. Buanthanglun Samte launched a dangerous left-footed inswinging corner from the right flank, which found Albiach who could not get the right connection but the ball struck Onaindia’s shoulder and went in.

Goa kept on squandering chances even after going 0-2 down. In the 83rd minute, Gupta glided his way past plenty of white shirts before finding Rowllin Borges, who could not keep his attempt on target. Two minutes later, Brandon’s pass from a free-kick saw Brison Fernandes in a good position, but his shot was saved by Michu. Gupta and Tamang further missed chances in the last few minutes.

With this win, NorthEast United has climbed to the 6th position in the standings with 19 points from 16 matches. They will now take on Hyderabad on 4th March.

Goa fell to the fourth position on the league standings behind Mumbai City on goal difference as both sides have 28 points from 14 games. The Gaurs will now face Kerala Blasters on Sunday as both sides will be aiming to shake their respective losing streaks.