File Image of North East United. (ISL Images)
Guwahati: NorthEast United FC kept their slim chances of a semifinal berth alive by upsetting in-form Delhi Dynamos 2-1 in an Indian Super League match here at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Wednesday.
The result saw NorthEast (18 points from 13 matches) set up a virtual knockout affair with Kerala Blasters (19 points from 13 matches) in both the teams' final outings. NorthEast have to win while a draw would be enough for the Blasters to make the cut.
After a barren first half, fleet-footed winger Seityasen Singh opened the scoring for the home side in the 60th minute with Romaric netting the second in the 71st minute to script the vital win which kept them in the race. Marcelo Pereira pulled one back for Delhi with an exquisite finish in second half added time.
A defeat would have seen NorthEast bow out of the competition paving the way for Kerala to book their semi-final ticket.
For the already-qualified Delhi, Doblas Santana was back in goal and Lalchhawnkima came in for David Addy.
NorthEast coach Nelo Vingada meanwhile, opted to give Yusa Katsumi a start with Gustavo Lazzaretti injured. Nirmal Chhetri and Robin Gurung too were handed starts with T.P. Rehenesh deputing in goal for an injured Subrata Paul.
Delhi's Richard Gadze missed a gilt-edged chance in the opening exchanges when he was put through on goal by Malouda.
The hosts were dealt a blow soon after when in-form striker Nicolas Velez picked up a knock and had to be replaced by Robert Cullen much to the chagrin of the team management and the Argentine.
NorthEast had a chance to go ahead but Emiliano Alfaro failed to convert Romaric's delightful through ball with keeper Doblas also narrowing the angle coming out of his line.
The best chance of the half fell to Seityasen Singh who had a lot of green ahead of him on the edge of the box but shot straight at Doblas from another Romaric through ball.
At halftime, both teams were locked at 0-0.
The goal came from nowhere at the hour mark. Didier Zokora's long ball found Seityasen who sneaked in behind Kean Lewis and Shouvick Ghosh to eventually beat a Shouvick lunge and poke the ball past Doblas.
Ten minutes later, NorthEast doubled their lead through Romaric who stabbed home from a Cullen pass past an onrushing Doblas.
Marcelo scored one in injury time, Malouda setting up the top-scorer for his ninth goal of the campaign.