ISL 2016: Profligate NorthEast United FC let down by jittery defence against Atletico de Kolkata
NorthEast United had enough opportunities to bury the game in the first half but were guilty of not making the most of their chances against Atletico de Kolkata.
The first half of the Indian Super League is now over; the business end of the tournament is going to begin now. On assessment, NorthEast United started the season in brilliant fashion. In the last few games, however, the Highlanders have faltered and slipped down the table. Two back-to-back losses against Chennayin FC, and Atletico de Kolkata will alarm a few. In a short tournament like this one, form is crucial, and not much will separate making the knockout stage and another flat finish.
The Eastern Derby hosted by NorthEast United was pulsating throughout. Like any European derby, one could see the passion of the fans, the animosity towards the opponent, and the desire, nay, need to win the match.
NorthEast finally got some rest, and played their first game after six days. The fixture list wasn’t too kind to them in the early part of the season, and break would have helped the players. They certainly looked refreshed, and the home team was outstanding in the first half. They completely dominated the game, and outplayed Atletico de Kolkata in the opening forty-five minutes. Emiliano Alfaro has become a familiar name on the scoresheet, and he was once again the goalscorer for Nelo Vingada.
Once again, NorthEast had enough opportunities to bury the game, and once again, they were guilty of not making the most of their chances. Had they been more clinical in the first half, Kolkata wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make a comeback. NorthEast could also feel they were hard done by. In the first half, there were two penalty appeals which could have changed the outcome of the game. The referee didn’t think it was a penalty on either of the two cases, and naturally, the home crowd was angry and booed the official with a vengeance. Asked if he felt it was a penalty, Vingada declined to comment. "From the position I am in, I cannot say anything. You guys have the television and the replays, see it yourself. I really can’t say anything," he said.
Atletico de Kolkata’s Helder Postiga proved why ISL clubs sign a "marquee player" every season. These players are meant to show their pedigree and class in a game (among other things off the pitch, unmistakably), and be a factor in deciding the result. Postiga came on in the second half, and just like that, the game tilted in favour of the visitors. The former Portugal international scored the first goal — a quality header — and played a part in the build-up to the second goal.
NorthEast United missed the services of Nicolas Velez. In the Argentine’s absence, Robert Cullen failed to replace his services on the flanks. Arguably though, NorthEast yearned Romaric in the midfield even more. NorthEast’s midfield was run over by the likes of Doutie, Postiga, Grande. Borges, who has been fantastic this season, couldn’t hold the midfield alone.
Questions will be raised about the defence as well. NorthEast’s defending for the winner scored by Juan Belencoso in the 80th minute was simply terrible. The goal was far too easy, and Vingada might want to make some alterations to the backline in the next game.
Even if he doesn’t make a change in the backline, the look of the defence will be different for the next game after Subrata Paul’s injury. The veteran goalkeeper was forced to be taken off in the 79th minute after getting injured. Wellington Gomes replaced him and endured a poor outing guarding the goal. Questions must also be raised about TP Rehenesh. The youngster has been NorthEast’s first choice goalkeeper for two seasons, and had done very well. Is he now the third choice, even behind Wellington? Vingada did say that Rehenesh was injured in the pre-match press conference, but even before, he seemed to be the third keeper in the pecking order.
Paul was brought in from Mumbai City FC to be the first choice keeper, but has lately looked very jittery and unsettled at the back. His goalkeeping for Postiga’s goal was questionable. Considering Gomes wasn’t too impressive in his short appearance either, perhaps Vingada would want to give the young Indian a shot in front of goal when he returns from his knock.
Atlético de Kolkata registered a resounding comeback to go on top of the table with this victory. They started the second half with intent while NorthEast United FC were looking to hold on to their one-goal lead. This might have been the problem because the visitors were more resolute, as well as more assured. NorthEast have had a mean defence, but their strength has been their attacking prowess. The team should have tried to be more attacking, and get that second goal. They chose to sit back and defend a one-goal lead, which is absolutely bizarre, considering Kolkata do not lack goal-scorers or creators. Atletico kept sending wave after wave of attack, and eventually got their equalizer. They had the confidence to go out and get the second goal, and were massively helped by some poor defending. NorthEast did try hard to score one late goal, but couldn’t get a point in the packed Indira Gandhi Stadium.
Coach Vingada has been top class for the team this season, and has truly shown his expertise on the pitch. On Friday however, his tactics were questionable. He would want to make amends before the side takes on Mumbai City in a week’s time. It was a dream start for the Guwahati team when games were coming quick and fast.
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