Guwahati, Feb 9 : After ending their four-match losing run with the goalless draw against Kerala Blasters FC last Friday, Robert Jarni’s North East United FC will now be hoping to win their first match in 2020 when they welcome Jamshedpur FC to the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Monday.
The Highlanders, like Jamshedpur, are out of the top four race and will be using the remainder of their Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 matches to finish as high up the table as possible. Despite their struggles this season, both teams have seen some very promising youngsters come to the fore this campaign and fans can expect the young guns to take centre stage come Monday.
In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, both sides shared the points in a 1-1 draw, with the Highlanders grabbing a late equaliser. Jarni’s side were, once again, robust in defence but ineffective in attack in their previous match against the Blasters. The club has now failed to score in their five Hero ISL matches in 2020, and are the lowest scorers in the division so far. January signings Andrew Keogh and Simon Lundevall have found it difficult to settle, with neither being able to score or assist any goals since their arrival. In fact, the team has failed to register themselves on the score sheet since the departure of Ghanaian icon Asamoah Gyan owing to an injury. Playmaker Federico Gallego, coming back from a long injury, still seems to be finding his feet and the Uruguayan will still need considerable game time before getting back to his best.
Despite the doom and gloom, the rise of youngsters like Ninthoi and Lalengmawia in recent games has infused an element of excitement in the side and fans will be eager to see the two in action on Monday again. Both players produced eye-catching performances whenever afforded the chance, with Lalengmawia even going on to win the Hero of the Match award in the Kerala tie. Even though the club has struggled on the offensive front, NorthEast have conceded the third fewest number of goals in the division so far.
Kai Heerings and Mislav Komorski have looked solid whenever they have partnered up at the heart of defence and will be tasked with keeping the likes of Sergio Castel and David Grande at bay in the coming fixture. Bidyananda Singh’s last-gasp goal for Mumbai City FC last Thursday officially knocked out Jamshedpur from the race for the top four. The failure to achieve their primary target for the season would have been especially disappointing for Antonio Iriondo’s side given the kind of start they had to the campaign.
The club collected seven points from their first three encounters, but have since managed to accumulate just nine points from 12 outings. Injuries have seriously deterred the club’s fortunes, with players like Castel, Piti and Tiri all missing at key junctures of the season. While Castel has recovered some of his fitness, the latter two look set to miss out the remainder of the season. Grande’s arrival in January, meanwhile, hasn’t panned out as per plan either, with the 29-year-old Spaniard yet to hit his stride. Similar to the North East, however, youngsters have been the ray of hope in Jamshedpur's otherwise disappointing season so far, with the likes of Aniket Jadhav, Farukh Choudhary, Jitendra Singh, Amarjit Singh and Narender Gahlot showing sparks of brilliance periodically. Seventeen-year-old Sandip Mandi has been the latest inclusion in the list, after starting the last two games for Jamshedpur.
NorthEast United FC: Subhasish Roy (GK), Mislav Komorski, Kai Heerings, Wayne Vaz, Reagan Singh, Lalengmawia, Simon Lundevall, Federico Gallego, Ninthoi, Jose Leudo, Andrew Keogh
Jamshedpur FC: Subrata Paul (GK), Narender Gahlot, Joyner Lourenco, Robin Gurung, Memo Moura, Aitor Monroy, Amarjit Singh, Noe Acosta, Farukh Choudhary, Sergio Castel, Aniket Jadhav. (UNI)