NorthEast United had a brilliant opportunity to take the game to ATK in the absence of their marquee signing Robbie Keane, who was sidelined due to an injury. Instead it was the visitors who looked the better of the two teams.
Both teams have struggled to score goals this season and so to expect a drab draw wasn’t being too pessimistic. For all of their possession in the first half, the Kolkata side couldn’t create clear-cut opportunities. Only Zequinha looked capable of producing a moment of magic as his pace and trickery constantly troubled Nirmal Chettri.
Teddy Sheringham would be disappointed as referee Arumughan Rowan, who again is on the FIFA list since 2009, didn’t award a spot-kick as Hitesh Sharma was stamped inside the box by Jose Goncalves in the first half.
ATK had around eight corners in the first 45 minutes and none really threatened the NorthEast citadel.
The second half too was a tedious affair. NorthEast had a chance through Danilo Cezario but Debjit Majumder was equal to the task. Thereafter, Kolkata once again saw more of the ball but NorthEast were happy to just sit back and hope they could score on a counter.
Sloppy would be the apt word to describe NorthEast as they gave away the ball under no pressure on several occasions. They couldn’t string together a proper attacking move, such was the abysmal performance dished out on a Friday evening.
The John Abraham-owned team's mediocrity was evident as they took it upon themselves to create an opportunity for Kolkata. Goncalves gifted the ball to Prabir Das who found Robin Singh. The former FC Goa striker’s shot was parried away by T.P.Rehenesh and Sambinha’s clearance fell for Zequinha. The Portuguese attacker with his second touch dispatched the ball into the back of the net. It was not one but two errors committed by the two most experienced centre-backs of NorthEast.
It was a game which lacked quality as both teams laboured on the field. For Sheringham, he wouldn’t complain as his team moved to the sixth position on the table. They have now bagged their second away win of the season and will hope that they can continue to nick 1-0 victories.
For NorthEast United, Avram Grant and Eelco Schattorie have their task cut out. The Highlanders would at least create scoring chances in the earlier games but on Friday, they even failed in that department. With just one shot on target and 39 per cent possession, the home team certainly needs to do much better.
Expect a lot of changes before they come up against Chennaiyin FC on January 19th as Grant and Schattorie will look to turn around their season.