Guwahati: The home crowd had reason to cheer at the end of a game for the first time at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday as NorthEast United FC ended a ten-match losing streak to pick up their first points and win of the season.
The home side beat ATK Mohun Bagan by a solitary goal, with striker Wilmar Jordan the man to put them in front in the 69th minute, before they kept their discipline at the back to seal a result that ended the Mariners’ own unbeaten streak and left them vulnerable to dropping out of the top three.
It was ATK Mohun Bagan that started the game on the front foot – and it would stay that way until they conceded. The visitors had a sizable number of shots on target at almost every point in the game, but an organised NorthEast United FC defense made sure that none of these shots were ever able to be substantial ones.
To their credit, the home side also made sure they kept their scoring options open and didn’t allow ATK Mohun Bagan’s much higher possession of the ball pin them back into their own halves. They were a continual threat on the counter, and although they couldn’t get too many of their shots on target as a result, they did keep asking questions of ATK Mohun Bagan’s high line.
The first real sign that they weren’t just looking to take a point from this game came in the 22nd minute when Jordan shielded the ball with his strength just outside the box, made a quick turn and got a shot away at the far post. He couldn’t find enough curl on it and only hit the post.
For ATMKB, most chances became a case of either being straight at the keeper, going over the bar, or being from a fair distance away. In the 68th minute, Kiyan Giri had perhaps the clearest chance in the second half for the visitors – but even that was from a tight angle on the right side of the box, and he could only find goalkeeper Mirshad Michu with his shot.
That was a sign of ATMKB pushing for a win that would keep them on the heels of Hyderabad FC in second place. But their commitment to scoring would turn into a boon for NorthEast United FC in the very next play. It took them only two passes to find the goal – one from defence to release Emil Benny on the right flank, and then the midfielder’s cross to find a rushing Jordan’s head in the middle of the box. From there on, NorthEast United FC took control of the game, producing more chances than ATKMB and holding on to the result.
The win doesn’t change NorthEast United FC’s position on the table and they remain in bottom place, but will end the year with points on the board as they visit Hyderabad FC on December 29.
The loss was a blow to ATKMB’s momentum in the playoff race – they remain in third place but could drop off if either Kerala Blasters or Odisha FC pick up a win on Monday. Their next game is against FC Goa on December 28.