Home FOOTBALL ISL 2020-21: NEUFC stun the Islanders as Lobera’s MCFC reign starts with...

ISL 2020-21: NEUFC stun the Islanders as Lobera’s MCFC reign starts with a stumble


The Highlanders NEUFC got off on a dream start under young manager Gerard Nus’ ISL debut courtesy of an Appiah penalty as they beat the tournament favorites, the Islanders Mumbai City FC who had a night to forget in their opening game in Goa.

Image Source: Twitter.com

MCFC started the game as firm favorites with star names such as Mandar Rao Desai, Ahmed Jahouh, Adam Le Fondre, Bartholomew Ogbeche & Hugo Boumous making their debut for the club after their summer move. Northeast United were always the underdogs, not just in this fixture but right from the outset in the ISL season. The game went according to the predictions in the early part of the first half with Mumbai clearly on the front foot and making life difficult for the NEUFC defenders. The Highlanders to their credit started on their defensive A-game right from the word go as they made it difficult for Mumbai to get in behind their defense and get shots away.

Ogbeche got the first real opportunity of the game while he missed from a corner as Jahouh decided to try his hand at some long-range shooting in order to disrupt the tough NEUFC defense, but in vain on both occasions. Mandar Rao Desai joined in on the act but also way below expectations. The first real chance for Mumbai to score came when Rowlin manufactured a fantastic volley on the turn from outside the box which only ended inches away from beating the experienced NEUFC goal-keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury at his near post.

On minute 24, Raynier Fernandes who was the surprise selection by Lobera for MCFC but was looking really well went down under a challenge that hurt his ankle. He was forced off the field due to this clash and was replaced by the well-touted Farukh Choudhary, who was actually expected to start in place of Raynier.

The game seemed to be in the control of Mumbai City as NEUFC look pretty much on the backfoot for the entirety of the first half. Mumbai’s blues suddenly turned red when a rash tackle in midfield by their star midfielder Ahmed Jahouh on Khassa Kamara was given a direct red card in the 42nd minute of the game. The man with the most tackles and passes in the game up to that point was heading back in for an early shower. The half did it with a penalty appeal by Ogbeche in the last minute of stoppage time but there was little malice in that as the first half ended 0-0.

The half time team talk was going to be crucial for Sergio Lobera whose MCFC were now down to 10 men but it was Gerard Nus who seemed to have an impactful team talk at half time for NEUFC as they started the second half dominating the initial couple of minutes and were rewarded for their good play with a penalty because of a handball by ex-Highlander Rowlin Borges. Kwesi Appiah was calm as you like from the penalty spot as he wrong sided the Mumbai goalkeeper and captain Amrinder Singh and slotted the ball cooly in the bottom right-hand corner. NEUFC lead 1-0.

The gameplan for both teams was simple then. Northeast United to defend and play on the break and Mumbai City to throw caution to the wind with a man down and try to grab an equalizer. MCFC introduced Cy Goddard at the hour mark in place of Ogbeche to change the momentum of the game completely in their favor. But NEUFC kept on remaining a threat on the counter-attack with the substitutions of Britto, Sylla, and Gallego and the already energetic Nintho keeping Mumbai honest for the rest of the game.

The NEUFC midfield and backline held their own until the full-time whistle in spite of the changes made by Mumbai and the innovation of Farukh Choudhary which failed to grab an equalizer for his team. To be fair to Northeast, they started the half with adventurous purpose but with the same defensive discipline and the 10-man Mumbai without Jahouh seemed without an extra oomph and were actually very flat for the entire second half. Northeast United ended up stunning the Islanders and were the deserved winners over the piece. Khassa Kamara was awarded the Hero of the Match.

Stay tuned for more ISL action on the weekend as Goa lock horns with Bengaluru on Sunday, 22nd November at 7:30 pm. Cheers!


Also Read: ATKMB get the W on opening night against Kerala Blasters

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