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ISL 2018-19: NorthEast United losing ground in the top-four race

10:01 AM GMT+8 08/02/2019
NorthEast United Goalkeepers
Bartholomew Ogbeche had an off-day and TP Rehenesh had a stinker in goal...

Thanks to their early season form, NorthEast United are still fourth in the 2018-19 Indian Super League standings.

However, things could take a turn for the worse for Eelco Schattorie and his team if they don't end their winless run soon, with the league stage coming to its conclusion. 

The Highlanders faltered against Delhi Dynamos on Thursday at their home ground. Despite creating several chances throughout 90 minutes, the hosts failed to pick up three points from a match that they should have won. A 1-1 draw against the Lions has left the Guwahati-based club with 24 points from 15 matches. 

ATK and Jamshedpur, with 20 points and a game in hand over NorthEast United, now have a chance to close the gap to the fourth spot and be just a point away from the last play-off spot, going into their last three matchdays. 

NorthEast have just one win in their last seven games and the solo victory came against an underwhelming Chennaiyin FC. Their form is alarming going into the last three fixtures. 

Bartholomew Ogbeche had chance after chance to score and add to goal tally for the season. But the striker simply had an off-day. The Highlanders are dependant on the duo of Ogbeche and Federico Gallego and this was a day when both of them failed to make the desired impact. The Nigerian striker did score from 12 yards after the referee punished Narayan Das for a foul that even the video replays couldn't spot but otherwise, his wastefulness in front of goal hurt his side. 

While Ogbeche will be expected to rub the dirt off his shoulders and score goals again, the situation in between the sticks is worrying. 

TP Rehenesh has not been convincing in goal and has committed more errors than a top-four team can afford. Against Delhi, he gifted the ball straight to Lallianzuala Chhangte in one instance and also scuffed a Romeo Fernandes cross from the right flank right into the path of Marcos Tebar, with the midfielder only having to tap the ball into the net to give Delhi a lead against the run of play. 

His back-ups, namely Pawan Kumar and young Gurmeet are nowhere near first-team quality for a top-four team. NorthEast United's play-off rivals all have top performers in goal - Mumbai have Amrinder Singh, Bengaluru have India no.1 Gurpreet Singh and Goa have Mohammad Nawaz who has answered the critics with some very good displays under the bar. Arindam Bhattacharya and Subrata Paul have been passable for Jamshedpur FC and ATK.

NorthEast United must win against second-placed Mumbai City and then comes matches against FC Pune City and Kerala Blasters, who have both recently shown that they can spring surprises despite their position on the league table. NorthEast United are in a spot of bother and they have nobody else but themselves to blame.