GUWAHATI: NorthEast United FC and Delhi Dynamos FC played out an engaging 1-1 draw at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Thursday. The home team had the better of the chances, particularly in the second-half, but couldn’t take advantage.
The result mathematically rules Delhi out from the top four race, while fourth-placed NorthEast missed the opportunity to go six points clear of the chasing pack.
With both teams taking time to settle in, the match got off to an edgy start without any notable chances in the first 15 minutes. The first big chance of the match fell Delhi’s way and as usual, Lallianzuala Chhangte was involved. The youngster checked back to elude his marker down the left wing and played in a lovely cross to find Vinit Rai’s run inside the box. Rai, however, snapped at it and missed the target altogether.
Delhi squandered yet another golden opportunity on the 24th minute when NorthEast goalkeeper TP Rehenesh’s terrible clearance fell right at Chhangte’s feet. The Delhi no. 7 only needed to beat Rehenesh, but the Highlanders custodian made a good stop to save himself from embarrassment.
With the Lions seemingly taking control of the match, NorthEast head coach Eelco Schattorie made a tactical change, bringing on Gurwinder Singh in place of Redeem Tlang. The personnel swap saw Jose Leudo, who started the match as a centre back, move up to the midfield and the impact was noticeable immediately as the Highlanders looked much more convincing going forward and kept Delhi goalkeeper Francisco Dorronsoro busy. Delhi, on the other hand, continued their probes into the NorthEast half and forced Rehenesh into making a couple of saves too.
NorthEast could have seized the initiative in the dying minutes of the first-half after new signing Panagiotis Triadis beat Dorronsoro with a lovely curling shot, but only managed to hit the base of the woodwork.
It was goalless at half-time, with everything to play for in the second 45 minutes.
NorthEast’s star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who was kept quiet by Gianni Zuiverloon and Marti Crespi in the first-half, got his first sniff of goal five minutes after the restart. Robert Lalthlamuana sent Ogbeche through on goal with a through ball and the striker tried to curl one around the massive frame of an onrushing Dorronsoro. The 34-year-old lost his balance slightly and saw his effort miss the far post by inches.
It was the home team dictating the terms after the break with Ogbeche and Federico Gallego looking much sharper than they did in the first 45 minutes. Triadis, too, looked a handful down the left wing with his bag of tricks and almost set up Ogbeche with a cheeky rabona just before the hour mark. Ogbeche’s header, however, was straight at Dorronsoro.
The Highlanders looked the favourites to grab the first goal, but to everyone’s surprise it was Delhi who took the lead against the flow of the match. On the 67th minute, Rehenesh failed to gather a cross from substitute Romeo Fernandes and birthday boy Marcos Tebar was in the right place at the right time to poke the ball into the net. The goal prompted a wild celebration, with Josep Gombau joining in with his players.
The joy, however, lasted just four minutes. NorthEast were awarded a penalty after Narayan Das brought down Ogbeche inside the box and the Nigerian frontman promptly converted the spot kick to draw things level.
The equaliser set the match up for a frantic final 20 minutes, with both teams looking for a winner. Deep into stoppage time, Rowllin Borges found space inside the Delhi box and took his shot on. Dorronsoro got the slightest of touches to the deflected effort and to Delhi’s relief, the ball eventually came out after hitting the underside of the crossbar. The match ended with the score reading 1-1.