The second-string NorthEast United FC suffered their second defeat in the Durand Cup 2022 as they went down 1-3 to Army Green at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on August 21.
Army Green, the last services team to win the tournament in 2016, inflicted the second consecutive loss for NorthEast United FC in Group D.
Greens skipper PC Lallawmkima got a brace of goals while Somesh Kothari struck the other, in a game completely controlled by the army team. Dipu Mirdha got a consolation for NEUFC in stoppage time.
It was Army Green’s first game of the tournament and they now join Odhisa FC with a 100 per cent win record in the group. OFC had beaten NEUFC 6-0 in the first Group D game on August 18.
In the same group, Sudeva FC of Delhi had played out a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters.
On August 21, both teams began in lively fashion in the first half but if was the army men who were decisive in the middle. They drew first blood in the 9th minute through their captain whose run was found perfectly by an overhead pass from Sochin Chhetri. Lallawmkima probably in an attempt to reach out and receive, ended up chipping keeper Nikhil Deka beautifully from a close range.
The Army Green stepped up the pressure post the goal with the inexperienced NorthEast United side finding it difficult to contain the continuous attacks. Sochin Chhetri and Roel Lepcha were brilliant in the middle while Gautam Singh was proving to be a menace all across the pitch.
The pressure resulted in the second goal. Somesh started the attack from the right and cushioned the ball to an overlapping Chabin Rabha whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper but the rebound fell kindly back to Somesh, who headed it into an empty net.
The drinks break saw some rejuvenation from NorthEast United as they created chances which could not be converted by Dipu Mirdha. It was just flashes by the Highlanders as the 2016 Champions continued to pile on the pressure for the rest of the half.
The experience and physicality of the army men were too much to handle for the youngsters from NEUFC as they continued to attack. The Greens increased their lead in the 55th minute through Lallawmkima yet again, who deservedly bagged the man of the match. A link up play from the left by Somesh and Gautam found the skipper unmarked at the far post, who just had to tap in.
Army Green continued with possession dominance and created chances while the Highlanders could not produce any clear-cut openings and all their attempts were straight at the army keeper Puia, who did not have to work much to keep them away.
A consolation did come the NorthEast United way in injury time when Dipu Mirdha got to the end of a through ball from Alfred, who did fluff a couple of chances in the match himself.