A 90th-minute goal from Idrissa Sylla helped NorthEast United clinch a point from Kerala Blasters…
Sergio Cidoncha (5′) and Gary Hooper (45+1′) gave Kerala Blasters a two-goal lead in the first half but Kwesi Appiah (51′) and Idrissa Sylla (90′) made sure that NorthEast United ended the night with a point.
Kibu Vicuna made four changes to the Blasters lineup which lost 0-1 against ATK Mohun Bagan. Nishu Kumar made his debut replacing Prasanth K at right-back. The other changes were Rohit Kumar, Puitea and Seityasen Singh in place of Ritwik Das, Nongdamba Naorem and Sahal Abdul Samad.
Juan Ferrando altered the winning combination of NorthEast United as Federico Gallego and Rakesh Pradhan came in place of Luis Machado and Lalrempuia Fanai.
Kerala Blasters looked dominant right from the off and found the net in the fifth minute of the match before NorthEast United could settle in. Seityasen Singh sent a curling free-kick from the right flank and skipper Sergio Cidoncha met the delivery with a brilliant header.
Vicuna’s men could have doubled the lead in the 23rd minute when Cidoncha set up the perfect ball for Gary Hooper inside the box. The move started with a backpass from Khassa Camara which was intercepted by Hooper. The English striker went forward with the ball and passed it on to his right to Cidoncha who quickly returned the favour. However, the former Norwich City striker failed to convert a tap-in from within the six-yard box.
NorthEast started to look dangerous after the first 30 minutes and created a big chance to equalise. Ashutosh Mehta latched onto a through ball from Gallego as he entered the penalty box from the right side and tried to push the ball into the net but it rolled wide.
In the 45th minute, the Highlanders were dealt a huge blow when Rakesh Pradhan brought down Puitea to give away a penalty. Before the foul happened, Dylan Fox had blocked Costa Nhamoinesu’s headers twice inside the box. Hooper converted the spot-kick and made amends for his earlier miss.
NorthEast United came back strongly in the second half and pulled one back in the 51st minute thanks to some poor defending by Kerala defenders. Gallego’s corner fell on to Kwesi Appiah inside the box after a miscommunication between Albino Gomes and Bakary Kone. Appiah tried to push the ball into the net first time with his shoulder but Gary Hooper blocked it from the goal line but the Ghanaian did not make a mistake in finding the back of the net from the rebound.
The Highlanders were handed a golden opportunity to equalise in the 65th minute when Lalengmawia was brought down inside the box by Jessel Carneiro but unfortunately, Appiah blasted the spot-kick above the crossbar to squander the chance.
The away side finally restored parity in the 90th minute when Idrissa Sylla controlled a long ball from Gurjinder Kumar with his chest inside the box and fired it into the net.
Highlanders climbed up to the top of the league table with four points from the first matches while Blasters remain on the eighth position with just a point.