Giant-killers NEUFC tames Mariners in style

NEUFC's Federico Gallego (2nd from left) celebrates after scoring a goal against ATKMB | Image Courtesy: ISL
NEUFC's Federico Gallego (2nd from left) celebrates after scoring a goal against ATKMB | Image Courtesy: ISL

A fulfilling outing for Federico Gallego highlighted with an assist and a spectacular goal helped NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) down ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Fatorda Stadium on January 26.

Gallego had a part to play in Luis Machado’s opener (60′) before Roy Krishna (72′) equalised for the Mariners. Gallego’s 81st-minute curler settled things for NorthEast.

The first half was a cagey affair, illustrated by the fact that both teams had only one shot on target each at the end of it. NEUFC stuck to defending their area and did not have too many completed passes in the opposition half. ATK Mohun Bagan had their first chance in as early as the eighth minute. Krishna found Javi Hernandez through a cut-back but the midfielder’s shot was wide.

It was ATKMB who kept more of the ball and looked the more threatening throughout the first half, but that was not to say that NorthEast United did not have their chances. Just after the half-hour-mark, Bagan keeper Arindam Bhattacharja was forced to make a save after Machado received the ball from Gallego and took a shot.

The Mariners nearly went ahead at the stroke of halftime as David Williams, after getting the ball from Hernandez, tried to find the onrushing Prabir Das, who missed it by inches.

NEUFC vs ATKMB: Controversies and opportunities

The opening goal, when it came, arrived in controversial circumstances. ATKMB defender Tiri gave away the ball cheaply as it bounced off Gallego and ran loose behind the defence. Tiri found himself in a race with Machado to get to the ball first. The Spaniard, though, took a tumble under pressure from Machado and the linesman’s flag went straight up. Referee Crystal John, however, did not stop play and Machado duly slotted it past Arindam. Despite vigorous protests by ATKMB, John allowed the goal for NEUFC after consulting the linesman.

The Guwahati-based side nearly doubled their lead soon when Gallego curled in a wonderful cross across the face of the goal. Mashoor Shereef was able to get on the end of it, but his looped header struck the post and bounced back into the play.

However, the lead lasted just over 10 minutes as a low ball from Carl McHugh outside the box found Krishna unmarked at the far post. The Fijian was never going to miss a simple tap in.

After the goal, it looked like ATKMB would go on to find the winner, but NEUFC’s Gallego had other plans. With just under 10 minutes left, the Uruguayan curled one from outside the box and it went in after bouncing off the upright.

There was a late penalty call for ATK Mohun Bagan after Krishna went down in the box under pressure from NEUFC keeper Subhasish Roy, but the referee awarded a goal kick.

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