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A Statement towards the Play-Offs: Review of East Bengal vs North-East

Usually, I am not so bad with adjectives, but tonight I am running out of it. These set of Bravehearts were a joy to watch. If anything that can swing your mood from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, if anything that has the power to make or break your day, it is the badge that you adore in the most beautiful game on planet Blue. Football, bloody hell!

Coming into this game, North-East United had a lot of things at stake compared to its counterpart. While the couple of foxes are right in the sniff to book a place in the play-offs, the redmen had their agenda set on just one simple thing: Win. Get those 3 points and let the other results not bother you. Probably this is the easiest way to fend off any pressure during the most crucial phase of any league or tournament. It's not easy, never is, except probably a certain team in a certain league in France.

Imran Khan after scoring against Chennaiyin FC

Khalid Jamil set out the same team that drew against Chennaiyin FC with Fede making it to the bench. The mightily impressive Imran Khan started instead and proved why he deserved to do so, building upon his performance from the previous game. At times, it felt like he was possessed by the spirit of Mario Gotze, gliding past the East Bengal midfield, with his delicate turns and cheeky chips over the defence. Khalid has a knack for putting his faith in youngsters and Imran paid back with his brilliant all-round performance. Another youngster who put a massive shift was Provat Lakra who has grown into the left-back spot with ease. Left foot, right foot, recovery, bombing forward, he had everything in his locker (Imagine Paul Maysfield praising a North-East United's player). A bit more composure and decision making, and he would definitely give Akash Mishra a run for the national team spot (No, Saviour from FC Goa is not second on the list, please!)

The first half saw an arguably even tussle, with both the defence focussed upon neutralizing the attack. However North-east United had a good amount of chances, considering the referee decided to wear his hat of ignorance tonight with two to three penalty shouts being waived off. While the annoying long balls from Sarthak were being dealt with professionally by the Highlanders, the half ended in a stalemate.

The second half saw a rejuvenated North-East side, who were drilling SCEB and testing their resilience, given the fact they were missing a few key players in Bright, Pilkington and Fox.

Suhair Vadakkepeedika, with his ever-so energetic performances throughout the decision, had one thing missing from his game: decision making in the final third. And boy did he chose the game to turn up! With positive runs down the flank and his clever cutbacks, he was surely rewarded when he slot home the opener to give North-East the lead. Nim Dorjee had another solid outing and his cross was deflected in towards the goal by Sarthak Gouli to make it 2-0 for the away side.

It looked like the Highlanders were cruising towards a victory and had another chance to increase the lead when Deshorn Brown was set through on goal by Apuia, but his shot was well-saved by the keeper. Apuia along with Camara and Imran had a scintillating game in the middle of the park and the absence of Gallego was covered with their work rate, passion, heart and calibre.

While the long run of lack of clean sheets continued, as SCEB got a goal back to half the deficit, the sturdy North-East defence buckled up to make sure the all-important 3 points were in the bag (even though the referee had an absurd idea to trigger few of us by not blowing the whistle even after the stipulated added time).

This victory though, puts us in a solid position to cement our place in the top four as we move to the final game of the season against Kerela Blasters two days from now. As Khalid Jamil ritualistically knelt down and kissed the ground thanking the almighty, we thanked him and his men for reinvigorating this side. Perhaps it's too soon yet, as the game can produce unimaginable results, but whatever happens, the Highlanders can dare to dream.

Up The Highlanders

We Walk Through This Together


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