Northeast United FC finally set foot in the top 4 after a riveting 0-0 draw against Hyderabad FC.
The significant encounter between the Highlanders and Hyderabad FC en route to a place in the playoffs ended in a stalemate. However, the game was no less than exciting as North-East United got a fair amount of chances to take the lead.
Prior to the game, both Northeast and Hyderabad came with the mindset of picking up the 3 points in order to tighten their grip in the top 4 and hike the possibility of their qualification. This very mindset, was very evident all throughout the 90' minutes, as all the players gave in their all and lived up to the hype of the game in every way possible.
Sylla started instead of the in-form Brown to lead the attack alongside Ninthoi and Machado, while Fanai started alongside Apuia and Gallego. Nim returned to the line-up to replace the suspended Ashutosh. Rempuia Fanai had one of the best games of his North-East United career as he took the #6 position. He kept it clean and tidy and made sure that the likes of Yasir did not have much breathing space. Nim Dorjee also had another good game marshaling Hali on the right flank. He did have a nervy moment but overall he had a decent game.
Provat Lakra, on the other hand, had another absolutely solid performance. He has grown into this role and probably deserves to be on the starting XI sheet. He frustrated Asish Rai and later on Colaco and played with a lot of courage and positive intent. Coach Khalid was particularly praiseful of the lads. “Two matches ago Nim [Dorjee] and Provat [Lakra] started and played well. Nim is playing his third match so he was confident of playing in place of Ashutosh. Lakra also did a good job. Fanai also did a good job playing alongside Lalengmawia,” he said
Hero of the match Lalenmawia Apuia had another stellar performance in the midfield where he was constantly on the run, harassing the Hyderabad midfield and attack. He also had a header saved by the keeper in the first half.
As the game kicked off, Hyderabad were the better side for the first 25-30 minutes as they created chances for themselves, kept most of the ball possession, and tested the sturdy defense of Northeast. But the Highlanders regained their momentum, as they then started to create positive moves to exploit Hyderabad's defense and penetrate into the promising positions.
The first 45 minutes of the game saw two decent chances, Lambot's header off Gallego's free-kick in the 39th minute being the most notable one. Big Ben rose to the ball which flew right above the crossbar. That should have been buried in considering the Belgian's aerial ability. Ninthoi who replaced Suhair had another frustrating outing as his mazy runs never met with the productivity expected from a talent like him.
The second half saw Brown replace Sylla and Suhair come on for Ninthoi. As the game went on, it was destined to be a 0-0 draw. However, there was a significant moment that could have been the decider for the night. Fede who had an unusual game struggling to find his feet put Luis Machado through on goal with an incisive pass. The Portuguese just failed to nick it off before Kattimani managed to latch onto it.
Both the coaches were happy to share the spoils as both acknowledged the quality of the game that they played. Up next is a valentine's Day encounter with Odisha FC. There is no margin for error and three points are what is needed to keep the race alive.
Up the Highlanders
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