A dominant NorthEast United beat Odisha FC 3-1 to get into the driver’s seat in the race for the playoff spots in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. With Hyderabad and FC Goa, NorthEast’s main rivals for a top four slot, dropping points, Khalid Jamil’s side jumped to third on the league standings.
Goals from Luis Machado and Deshorn Brown moved NorthEast two points clear of both Hyderabad and Goa. With the latter two teams taking on each other in their final game, NorthEast are now heavy favourites to grab a playoff spot. Bradden Inman netted a consolation for Odisha.
NorthEast started the game at a furious pace and only needed nine minutes to come up with the first goal. Ashutosh Mehta found Machado with an accurate cross and the latter hit it first time past a diving Arshdeep Singh in the ninth minute.
A second came in the 19th minute through Brown. Federico Gallego entered the Odisha half with the ball and threaded through a pass for the new recruit, who had been enjoying a fruitful stint since his arrival from Bengaluru FC. The Jamaican slotted home with a sublime finish.
Another five minutes later, NorthEast had their third goal, Gallego again at the centre of things. He spotted Machado making a run into the box and found him with an accurate looping ball. Machado made no mistake and headed the ball past the onrushing Arshdeep.
Odisha did manage to get back into the game in stoppage time just before the first-half whistle. New signing Inman, who has impressed since arriving from ATK Mohun Bagan, received the ball from Daniel Lalhlimpuia and attempted a finish from a narrow angle. His shoot took a heavy deflection off NorthEast defender Mashoor Shereef and went in.
The goal injected new life into what had been a poor first half from Odisha and they signalled their intention to go looking for more goals by throwing on Diego Mauricio at halftime. But it was their opponents, who kept creating chances. Machado had a chance early in the second half but his shot was wide. Then, in the 62nd minute, Arshdeep had to pull off a fantastic double save as he denied both Gallego and Machado.
There was some late drama as Gurjinder Kumar was sent off for a second yellow, putting NorthEast at a numerical disadvantage. Immediately after that, Brown missed a golden opportunity to put the result beyond doubt as his shot from a one-on-one position was straight at Arshdeep.
Odisha kept applying pressure till the end, but the NorthEast defence stood firm as they took their team to victory and three points.