ANI Photo | Durand Cup: Parthib hattrick highlights fluent NorthEast United win over Shillong Lajong

Home side NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) got their 132nd Durand Cup campaign off to a flying start with a fluent 4-0 victory in the North East derby over Shillong Lajong, here at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Friday evening.
Assam boy Parthib Gogoi scored his first hattrick at the senior level, adding to the joy of home supporters as the Highlanders took pole position in Group D. The game was preceded by an elaborate cultural programme and opening ceremony where the Honourable Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma in attendance.
All 43 games of the 132nd Durand Cup are being telecast live on Sony Sports Ten 2 channels as well as live-streamed on SonyLIV.
The Highlanders certainly appeared the more organized side from the moment the referee blew his whistle and their upper hand in the game finally paid dividends in the 26th minute of the first half.
Rochharzela turned his marker and made a run inside the top of the box to unleash a pile-driver which dipped under slippery ground conditions in front of Shillong keeper Neithovilie Chalieu. The custodian managed to parry it away feebly and it fell on a platter for a young and lurking Parthib Gogoi who deftly lobbed Chalieu to open the scoring.
That lead was doubled when Romain Philippoteaux drove in skillfully to send the Shillong defence in disarray, resulting in Kenstar bringing the Frenchman down inside the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Romain made one mistake in finishing what he had begun.
With the score still reading 2-0 in favour of the Highlanders, Jithin MS, who came on in the second half, set up Parthib with a good cross five minutes post-commencement, but the young striker’s attempt was straight at Chalieu.
Both coaches, Spaniard Juan Pedro Ben Ali and Shillong’s Bobby Lyngdoh kept ringing in the changes at the hour mark, but it was NEUFC which reaped the dividends, thanks to Parthib’s awareness inside the box and clinical finishing.
Phalguni Singh it was, who found the run of yet another substitute Gani Nigam on the right. Gani fended off his marker and found Parthib in the clear who tapped in for the third.
The local lad then completed his hattrick when Philippoteaux found Jithin with an impeccable through on the left flank and this time, Parthib made no mistake with the cross, sliding in to beat Chalieu for the third time himself and fourth time overall in the match.
To Shillong’s credit and has been their credo, they did not stop running and chasing the game and trying to pull one back, but there was nothing serious to challenge NEUFC keeper Mirshad and in the end, it was a canter for the Highlanders.
The win will be crucial with FC Goa and Downtown Heroes of Kashmir coming up next for both the teams.

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