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ISL: Kerala stay alive after 1-0 win over NE United

Guwahati, Feb 18: Kerala Blasters FC kept their playoff hopes alive, collecting the crucial three points after beating a depleted NorthEast United FC 1-0 in their final home game at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Saturday.

Last year’s runners-up Kerala, who have scored in their last 13 games in a row, the longest run by a team in the ISL, gained an early lead in the 28th minute when former Manchester United player Wesley Brown successfully headed a corner past the NorthEast keeper.

Plagued by the loss of key foreign recruits like Portugese skipper José Gonçalves, Brazilian midfielder Marcinho, Guinea-Bissauan centre-back Sambinha and ex-Benfica star Helio Pinto to injuries, the hosts could only afford to play the party spoilers after struggling the whole season.

This was the fourth consecutive loss for the Highlanders, who have failed to score in 10 of their 15 matches and Saturday’s display was no different — creating opportunities and missing goals.

It was as early as the 10th minute when Brazilian striker Danilo Cezario failed to generate enough power to put Swedish Maic Sema’s pass past the Kerala goalkeeper Rachubka.

The hosts could have made matters worse for them in the 20th minute when Nirmal Chettri failed to defend an attempt from Kerala’s Jackichand into the net and instead hit it towards his own goal. But thanks to NorthEast keeper Rehenesh Paramba’s brilliant save, there was no damage and the first half ended 0-1 in favour of the visitors.

Coming back, NE United came close to equalising in the 72nd minute when midfielder Lalrindika Ralte fired one from the left only to find the crossbar before the ball came back to him. His next attempt went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.

The tourists, whose fans outnumbered the vociferous NorthEast supporters, played the waiting game in the later half and managed to shield their lead even after four minutes of extra time was taken.


ISL: FC Goa, NE United play 2-2 draw

Fatorda (Goa), Feb5: FC Goa and NorthEast United FC shared a point each after settling to a 2-2 draw in an Indian Super League (ISL) at the Fatorda Stadium here on Sunday.

Mandar Rao Desai put the hosts ahead in the 42nd minute but the visitors equalised through Marcinho at the stroke of the break. FC Goa regained the lead through Ferran Corominas Telechea before substitute John Mosquera leveled the score for NE United.

Following the draw, Goa remained in the fifth spot with 20 points from 12 games, while NE Unnited were static at the ninth position with 11 points from 12 matches.

After a timid start to the game, Desai converted a low cross from Jonathan Cardozo in the box after a deflection from NorthEast United defender Martin Diaz. The deflection found Dessai, who had time to take a touch before firing it low past the goalkeeper.

FC Goa looked set to take the lead into the break. But just before the half-time whistle, the visitors found the equaliser through their Brazilian import Marcinho. A cross into the box by Reagan Singh was deflected of Cezario and fell in the path of Holicharan Narzary, who squared across the goal for Marcinho to tap the ball home.

In the second half, the home side regained the lead in the 53rd minute through Corominas’ 13th strike of the season. Ahmed Jahouh started the move with a long ball to find Manuel Lanzarote free on the left and he instinctively found his striker charging towards goal at the far post to finish off the move.

After going behind for the second time in the game, NE United threw caution to the wind to find the equaliser. In the 66th minute, coach Avram Grant brought on John Mosquera to replace Danilo Lopes and it proved to be a positive move. Just five minutes after coming on to the field, Mosquera brought his team level after Seiminlen Doungel’s square pass gave him an easy opportunity to tap into the net.

In the final third of the game, both sides tried to find a winner but failed to create enough clear-cut chances.


ISL: Doungel’s hat-trick floors Chennaiyin

Guwahati, Jan20: Seiminlen Doungel became the first Indian footballer to score a hat-trick in the ongoing Hero Indian Super League (ISL) as NorthEast United FC stunned Chennaiyin FC 3-1 here on Friday.

Doungel netted in the 42nd, 46th and 68th minutes as the hosts registered their third win in 10 matches. They remained second in the table with 10 points – three ahead of Delhi Dynamos, whereas Chennaiyin were static at the second spot with 20 points.

NE United had scored just four goals in their nine matches prior to this clash against Chennaiyin. There was urgency but no direction to the home team’s attack and most moves fizzled out before reaching the danger zone.

Chennaiyin too were not in their elements, although there were a couple of half-chances at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium.

The home team, though, was rewarded for their efforts in the 42nd minute as Doungel made the first attempt on goal count. A ball just outside the box from Reagan Singh saw Doungel chest it back to Cezario. The striker weaved his way past two markers and fired a shot which goalkeeper Karanjit Singh didn’t collect cleanly and Doungel slotted it home from close range.

Only 19 seconds into the start of second-half, Doungel pounced on a through ball from Danilo Lopes to finish it past the onrushing goalkeeper as the hosts got to 2-0 lead.

Doungel completed his hat-trick in the 68th minute when he gave finishing touches to a square pass from Holicharan Narzary.

The visitors, stunned by the three goals, looked desperate. Anirudh Thapa pulled a goal back in the 79th minute with a brilliant volley. But the goal came very late to rejuvenate the former champions.


Match Preview: ISL, Buoyant NorthEast have ATK in their sights

Guwahati, Jan 11: NorthEast United FC may have won their first match under the guidance of their technical advisor Avram Grant, but they will need to be at their best to stop a desperate ATK in a ninth round Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Friday.

ATK have won just twice in eight games and can cut the gap to the play-off spots to just two points with a victory.

Their assistant coach Bastob Roy likened the situation to that of Real Madrid in the La Liga, saying that this was how football was and that they would now have to create their own luck rather than rely on the rub of the green.

“Have you seen the situation of Real Madrid? This is football, it’s part of the game and we are trying to come out of this situation. We still think we can make the play-offs. The table is very unpredictable and with two wins in a row, we may be able to achieve it. Luck is not with us,” he said.

“Chance factor has been against us. We are not looking behind but looking forward. The only thing we can do is hard work. Luck is not in our hands. In football you have to score and not concede. That’s what we work on,” he added, not disclosing the team’s plans for NorthEast United, who were impressive in their 2-1 win against FC Goa.

Meanwhile, former Chelsea manager Grant will look for the attitude which was seen against FC Goa, when his side notched their first win after four defeats on the trot. They can leapfrog ATK with a win and that will be the most motivating factor for them.

“I think we need to improve a lot. I like to implement attacking football but for us to reach the desired level is difficult. So the immediate focus is to remain organised and be together. Hopefully that gets us some results,” NorthEast assistant coach Eelco Schattorie said.

“Two areas which need work on is to bring the team together. Last week everyone worked hard and had the intention to help each other so that organisation is very important. Secondly, we need to improve in the area of scoring goals but that is the most difficult as well. We can’t train today to score and score tomorrow. That is not how it works. That only works when you have (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo,” he added.

NorthEast United may not have those two players at their disposal, but they showed what a determined performance can achieve against one of the best teams in the league. More of the same will certainly cause ATK problems.



ISL: Former Chelsea coach Grant appointed NorthEast United advisor

Guwahati, Jan 4: Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has stepped in to advise NorthEast United FC for the remainder of the Indian Super League (ISL) season, the club said in a statement on Thursday.

Grant said, “I agreed to the challenge and am hitting the ground running.”

“India is a new and exciting environment for football and look forward to the pace of the League. I have confidence in the club and we will do all we can to take the Club forward.”

Grant moved to England in 2006 to become Technical Director of Portsmouth before being appointed Director of football at Chelsea in July 2007 and steered the team into the Champions League final, the League Cup final and contesting the English Premier League title to the last day.

Grant has spent the majority of his career coaching and managing in Israel, winning a
number of national league and cup victories with different teams, and also managing the Israeli national team for four years.

His last appointment was coach of the Ghana national football team.


NorthEast United sack coach de Deus, Meulensteen to take charge

Kolkata, Jan 3: Struggling Indian Super League (ISL) franchise NorthEast United FC have sacked their Portuguese coach Joao de Deus Pires, a day after fellow ISL club Kerala Blasters parted ways with Rene Meulensteen.

“He and his assistant coach (Joao Pinho) have been shown the door. They are expected to come to Mumbai on Wednesday and do the final settlement with (owner) John Abraham,” an ISL official told.

Goalkeeping coach Joseph Siddy is slated to take charge.

The club had appointed Joao de Deus Pires in July last year in the hopes of overturning their fortunes this time around after failing to qualify for the knockout stages in the last three years since the tournament’s inception.

This season, NorthEast have scored just twice in seven games and languish in ninth place.

With only a win in their bag, the north-eastern outfit once again look set to miss out on the top four unless they improve their form drastically.


Pune City floor NE United, move to 2nd spot in ISL

Pune, Dec 31: FC Pune City routed NorthEast United FC 5-0 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium here on Saturday to jump to the second spot in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL).

Brazilian striker Marcelinho scored a hat-trick (27th, 45th, 86th minutes) after Ashique Kuruniyan had opened the account in the eighth minute.

Adil Khan also got into the scoresheet with an 88th-minute strike as the hosts made light of the absence of their suspended coach Ranko Popovic.

Pune have now moved to the second spot with 15 points from eight matches and are just a point behind league leaders Chennaiyin FC.

NE United suffered their fourth successive defeat in the Hero ISL and are just above Delhi Dynamos at the bottom of the league table. NE United have four points from seven matches and have not picked up a point since defeating Delhi for their only win on December 2.

The match was all over as a contest inside the first 45 minutes when Pune City grabbed the chances that came their way. The home side had three shots on target, and all three of them ended up being goals.

NE United also had three shots on goal, but none of them converted into a goal, showing why the visitors had a massive shortfall in the first half.

It were the visitors who had the first look at the goal and should have been ahead, but Marcinho shot straight into the goalkeeper after skipping past the midfield and defence.

From the resultant counter-attack, Pune left NE United gasping with their pace as Jonatan Lucca made it all the way to the rival goal and cut it back for Emiliano Alfaro whose shot took a deflection and fell kindly for Ashique who slotted it past the goalkeeper.

Pune made it 2-0 in the 27th minute when last season’s highest goalscorer, Marcelinho won a free kick just outside the box after Rowllin Borges fouled him and then stepped up to majestically curl the ball past the wall and into the top corner of the net.

Marcelinho scored his second at the stroke of half-time, and this time it was goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh who was to be blamed. Marcelinho picked up a ball from Lucca and faced goal from an acute angle. He still tried his luck with a powerful attempt which Rehenesh ended up diverting into the goal through his legs.

Marcelinho completed his hat-trick in the 86th minute when Marcos Tebar found his captain inside the box, and the Brazilian finished it off by beating Rehenesh at the near post.

With two minutes left to be played, Adil scored his third goal of the league for Pune as he turned a ball home from a goalmouth melee.

This was the first time Pune scored five goals in a game, but with Marcelinho striking form, this may not be the last.


Balwant brace fires Mumbai City past NE United in ISL

Guwahati, Dec 21: Striker Balwant Singh scored a brace as Mumbai City FC thumped NorthEast United FC 2-0 in the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Wednesday.

The win took Mumbai into the top four of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) table, and banished the memories of a disappointing 0-1 loss against ATK at home.

NorthEast now sit in lowly ninth position and have scored just two goals in six matches.

The first goal was a howler as NorthEast’s goalkeeper, Ravi Kumar ran out of his area to challenge Balwant, who simply had to arrange the ball past him into a gaping goal from outside the box.

Mumbai City put the result beyond doubt with a second goal in the 68th minute. A lapse in concentration from Rowllin Borges allowed Achille Emana into a dangerous area from where he squared the ball for Balwant. With an open goal awaiting him for the second time in the match, he made no mistake whatsoever.

The goal came minutes after Balwant had missed a chance from close range. Emana was the man at it again, but his cross was headed over from yards away in an inexplicable miss.

But while Balwant took credit for the goals, it was Emana who caused the most trouble for NorthEast. The attacking midfielder created room for himself brilliantly on the hour mark, but this time Ravi Kumar got down sharply to make a stop.

NorthEast piled on the pressure and sent fizzing crosses into the box at will, but a lack of cutting edge in front of goal meant those chances went abegging.

They saw Marcinho smack the post with an attempt and Seiminlen Doungel miss from point-blank range before Mumbai’s goals. This profligacy in front of goal will certainly be a problem in their quest to qualify for the business end of the Hero ISL.


ISL: Win-hungry NorthEast United face Mumbai City

Guwahati, Dec 20:Having picked up just four points from their opening five games in the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL), NorthEast United FC will be hungry to log a win against Mumbai City FC here on Wednesday.

Joao Carlos Pires de Deus’s side have found it difficult to breach the opposition defences and score goals. So much so that the Highlanders have netted a grand total of two goals thus far.

Their opponents at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, Mumbai City FC, are facing nothing of that sort.

Alexandre Guimaraes team will, in fact, be yearning to relaunch their bid to overtake local rivals FC Pune City and occupy a spot in the top four of the table. This is something they failed to do in their last game, against ATK at home.

While talking to reporters on Tuesday, Joao acknowledged that his team needs to score more goals. But the Portuguese emphasised that “it’s too early” to predict which four teams qualify for the business end of the season.

“We have played five games but no one wins or loses the league after that many games. This is a different type of competition. Even the team that finishes at the top of the table doesn’t win the league. But, of course, we have to win more games and score more goals,” the Portuguese coach said.

NorthEast United will be without their first choice goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh after he received a direct red card in their last game against Kerala Blasters. But more worryingly for him, it seems he has lost João’s confidence.

When asked about his choice of goalkeeper for Wednesday’s game, João said, “When we started the season, we had three keepers. Obviously TP played the first five because the coach thought he was the best goalkeeper. Now the coach doesn’t think he is the best. Well, now I feel that Ravi Kumar is the best.”

Mumbai will also be without midfielder Sehnaj Singh. The 24-year-old is serving a one-game suspension after having picked up his fourth yellow card of the season last time out.

Guimaraes, however, refused to reveal who will replace Sehnaj for the game.

Having played their last game just three days ago, the Costa Rican tactician did talk about their long travels and tough competition this season.

“We played our last game last Sunday and we had to travel immediately for our next game. But it’s the same with all the teams and I’m looking forward to playing on this (NEUFC) pitch which is one of the best in the league,” he said.


ISL: Kerala Blasters defeat 10-man NorthEast United by slender margin

Kochi, Dec 16: Kerala Blasters FC huffed and puffed their way to 1-0 victory over 10-man NorthEast United FC for their first win in the Indian Super League (ISL) season four at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Friday.

CK Vineeth, returning from suspension, scored the lone goal of the match in the 24th minute as Kerala Blasters maintained their record of never losing to NorthEast United in four years.

The hosts were in an advantageous position for the entire second session as NorthEast goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh was sent off with a straight red card in the 43rd minute.

NorthEast could never recover from that blow, although they could not be faulted for lack of effort.

Although Vineeth got the goal that mattered, the hero of the match was debutant Wes Brown. The former Manchester United defender played his first match for Kerala Blasters and showed what they were missing all along. His solid performance in front of the back four was the key to Kerala’s first win this season.

It was NorthEast though who started stronger and with some good fortune could have even taken the lead. Striker Marcinho was a constant threat for the visitors and struck a good understanding with Martin Diaz.

Kerala calmed nerves for the hosts in the 24th minute with a gem of a strike from star man Vineeth. Captain Sandesh Jhingan released Rino Anto on the right with a long ball and Anto, with plenty of space ahead of him, made a superb run forward. He then played an inch-perfect cross inside the NorthEast goalmouth where Vineeth stunned everyone with a flying header.

There was a way back for the visitors but they needed to keep calm. In the 43rd minute, the match took a dramatic turn when Rehenesh was red-carded. From a quick counter-attack, the inspirational Courage Pekuson picked out Mark Sifneos with a through ball and goalkeeper Rehenesh mistimed his jump, catching Sifneos’s legs, instead of the ball.

Once the referee flashed the red card at Rehenesh, they were left with a mountain to climb. With the numerical advantage, Kerala always enjoyed the upper hand and it was the upright that thwarted them in the 57th minute when Lalruatthara’s close-range shot seemed good enough for the second goal.

NorthEast had to rely mostly on counter attacks and they came close to securing an unlikely equaliser with just three minutes left to be played. A corner-kick from substitute Odair Fortes saw Danilo Lopes rise high to head, but the ball sailed agonisingly wide with nobody on hand to tap it him.

The final minutes of the match saw Kerala Blasters clearing off the ball to maintain their lead and NorthEast United pushing hard for an equaliser but their efforts going in vain.