The victory for the Highlanders came at a huge cost as two of their key players Bartholomew Ogbeche and Rowllin Borges suffered injuries.
It was the first leg of the semi-finals between NorthEast United and Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) and what a turnaround we saw. Redeem Tlang opened the scoring for the Highlanders with a beautifully curled shot in the 20th minute, leaving Gurpreet Singh Sandhu unmoved.
However, his strike was canceled out late in the 83rd minute as super-sub Xisco Hernandez converted Sunil Chhetri’s pass from close range. Nevertheless, NorthEast had the last laugh as another super-sub Juan Mascia scored from the spot late in injury-time to hand the precious victory to the Highlanders.
Below are the ratings of all the other Indian players who were a part of the fixture:
Watch: 1st Semi-Final 1st Leg – NorthEast United 2-1 Bengaluru FC – Goals and Highlights
NorthEast United FC
Pawan Kumar – 5.5
It certainly wasn’t a very good performance by Pawan, as he just couldn’t keep his clearances in play and his collections weren’t confident either. He was lucky in the 24th minute, when he made a scrambling save against Dimas Delgado’s shot, which almost ended up at Chhetri’s feet and again in a similar incident in the 48th minute. Needs to improve a lot.
Robert Lalthlamuana– 6.0
Robert had a decent outing as he was constantly running up and down the pitch, often chasing Udanta and Rahul Bheke down the wing. The wing-back made five clearances overall and a couple of tackles too. Quite a solid performance by the 30-year-old who took over the captain’s armband after Bartholomew Ogbeche came off in the first half.
Reagan Singh– 6.5
Reagan was a part of a very organized defensive line, which was unlucky to lose its clean sheet late in the game. The full-back was a huge influence on the game as he made four tackles and eight clearances.
Barring the one time when Chhetri assisted Xisco for the equalizer, Reagan was highly successful in keeping the striker away from the danger zone. A performance Eelco Schattorie would be very proud of.
Lalthathanga Khawlring – 6.0
Another NorthEast player with a decent performance. Lalthathanga wasn’t much of an influence on the game, but he silently worked hard and often went unnoticed. Kept a good 70% passing accuracy and also helped defensively, making three tackles and a couple of interceptions.
Rowlin Borges – 6.0
Before being taken off during half-time due to an apparent injury, Borges was in great form, having maintained an 86% passing accuracy and being dominant in midfield. It would be a major blow for the Highlanders if he misses the next leg.
Redeem Tlang– 7.0
Like always, Redeem was a livewire throughout the 73 minutes that he played. His solid work rate supported by individual brilliance earned him a goal, as he scored the opener in Arjen Robben-esque style.
Watch: The decisive goal from Tlang
Yet, he earned a yellow card in the 63rd minute for bringing down Xisco. The yellow card explains how Redeem was helping a lot defensively too, as he made a couple of clearances and four interceptions. A rock-solid performance by the 24-year-old.
Nikhil Kadam– 6.0
Came on as a half-time substitute for Borges, but wasn’t as influential as him. Nevertheless, he made a couple of tackles and also kept his passes clean.
Keegan Pereira – 5.5
Replaced Redeem in the 73rd minute, but didn’t get many touches of the ball. However, he did help his team keep possession well, as they snatched a victory late in the game.
It was a fair outing for Gurpreet, but he definitely deserves stick for not reacting to the opening goal from Redeem. It was just one of those moments when he was rooted to the spot and eventually ended up conceding a goal.
Saved three of the five shots he faced, but unfortunately, the other two ended up hitting the net as his side fell to a loss in the first leg of the semi-final.
Nishu Kumar– 6.0
Had a tough job dealing with Redeem, but he was partially responsible for the opening goal by the winger. Apart from that, he did perform four clearances and a couple of blocks while also maintaining an 83% passing accuracy. Can do better.
Rahul Bheke– 6.5
Bheke started the game with a risky headed back-pass to Gurpreet, but improved as the game went on. In fact, he was highly successful in dealing with Federico Gallego for the majority of the game, as he made six clearances and a couple of interceptions. His passing was superb which is explained by the 90% accuracy.
Harmanjot Khabra – 5.5
Watch: Harmanjot Khabra giving away the penalty
Started the game well and was pretty solid in the first half. But, as the game progressed, he was often overpowered by Jose Leudo and lost possession a few times too. A draw would have been a good result for the Blues and the scoreline was likely to remain so at full-time, but a bookable offence by Khabra as he brought down Mascia inside the box, earned the hosts a penalty.
That was the decisive moment of the game as Bengaluru were forced to return home with a loss.
Udanta Singh– 5.0
It certainly wasn’t the performance that was expected from Udanta, as he was nowhere to be seen in the game. The winger was a part of a toothless attack and managed to get just 14 touches of the ball in the first half.
Wasted an opportunity to create a chance for Xisco, as he put a lot of weight on the ball. Definitely needs to do better in the return leg.
Sunil Chhetri– 5.5
The skipper had a rare quiet outing on the night, but still managed to get an assist for a valuable away goal scored by Xisco. The assist was, unfortunately, Chhetri’s only highlight of the game as he was never a threat in attack.
Like Udanta, he too managed to get only 14 touches of the ball and was occasionally visible in the game. The veteran needs to get back to form in time for the return leg.