NorthEast United, under the tutelage of Avram Grant, bagged full points at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on January 6 as they got the better of FC Goa in a 2-1 result. Marcinho (21’) and Seiminlen Doungel (52’) found the net for The Highlanders while Manuel Arana (27’) scored the lone goal for the Gaurs.
Hosts NorthEast United and visitors FC Goa both lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape with the Highlanders making three changes and Sergio Lobera making four. For the John Abraham-owned outfit, defender Nirmal Chetri replaced Abdul Hakku while Seminlen Doungel and Halicharan Narzary featured on the wings in the place of Malemngamba Meitei and Lalrindika Ralte. As for The Gaurs , Sergio Juste, Chinglensana Singh, Pronay Halder and Manuel Arana came in place of Edu Bedia, Bruno Pinheiro, Mohamed Ali and Narayan Das.
The first real chance of the game came as early as the sixth minute for the home side as Danilo’s shot, following Marcinho’s through-ball from the right-side, was kept on target but an alert Kattimani showed parried it away. Just four minutes following this, FC Goa tested the home side’s custodian. From the right-flank, Brandon started the move which was followed by a cross for Arana inside the penalty box; the Spaniard passed the ball to Corominas who took a shot from distance but was denied by an impulsive save from TP Rehenesh.
The first blood was drawn in the 21st minute with Marcinho registering his name on the scoresheet in what was the first goal on home soil for Goncalves and co. A Danilo cross from the right-side was perfectly controlled by Marcinho in the 18-yard-box who released a left-footed shot. The delivery took a deflection off Jahouh before hitting the right post and bumped into the net.
The Guwahati-based outfit’s lead lasted less than ten minutes as Lobera’s men scored the equalizer in the 28th minute. An onrushing Halder sent a curling cross from the left-wing which was struck into the net from an acute angle by Arana after Goncalves failed to clear the danger.
Just minutes before the break, the visitors had a chance to come ahead in the game but Brandon’s shot from the left-side of opposition box was kept away by a vital save from the 24-year-old Rehenesh. That was the end of proceedings in the initial half as the two teams walked off the pitch on a 1-1 scoreline.
The hosts bagged an early goal in the second-half as Seiminlen Doungel lobbed Kattimani to clinch the lead for his side after Marcinho sent a through-ball forward for the Manipuri who delivered a calm and composed finish.
NorthEast United had the chance to extend their lead at the one-hour mark after Kattimani collected a back-pass from defender Juste which lead to an indirect free-kick. However, the men in white couldn’t capitalize from the situation as a piledriver from Marcinho was saved by the Goa custodian.
In the 78th minute, Manvir had the opportunity to level things for Lobera’s troops when he was placed inches away from the target but his shot hit the woodwork after Rehenesh let things loose.
While Goa looked desperate to grab at least a point from the contest, a couple of goal-line clearances from NorthEast United’s defensive line kept Kattimani-led Goa away from their target.
At the final whistle, NorthEast United clinched their first victory on home soil this season while FC Goa were handed their third defeat of the tournament.