Winless Odisha will want to get off the bottom spot and the Highlanders to bounce back from their first defeat of the season…
Both teams had to treat the fixture as a must-win contest but to varying degrees. NorthEast had a decent start to the season and were sitting fourth on the table but had suffered a defeat in the previous game. Gerard Nus needed three points to return to winning ways and climb up the table. But it didn’t happen.
Stuart Baxter, on the other hand, was chasing his first win of the season. They were without a win in their first six matches so there was no real excuse to turn up and get off to a slow start as they had done in their previous games.
Odisha had scored only three goals from six matches and all of them had come in the second half. Moreover, seven out of the nine goals they conceded were in the first half. This meant that the first half against NorthEast United had to be a good one for the Juggernauts.
18 – Two teams ( @NEUtdFC and @FCGoaOfficial ) have attempted 18 shots in a match against #OdishaFC , the most to be attempted in a match in this season of the #ISL . Vulnerable. #OFCNEUFC #HeroISL #LetsFootball pic.twitter.com/TV8VQifpZQ
— OptaJeev (@OptaJeev) December 22, 2020
The match was evenly contested for most parts and both teams lacked a cutting edge that would have helped them to put the game to bed. Diego Mauricio. whose consistency in front of goal has been questioned, produced a powerful low strike to break the deadlock in the first half – a goal that broke the first-half voodoo for Odisha.
That was the start Odisha wanted badly but they could not capitalise on it. As has happened multiple times this season, they relinquished the lead very easily. Credit must also go to NorthEast here showing intent to equalise. And as they have shown plenty of times this season, they clawed their way back into the game with a deserved equaliser.
And it was no surprise that Ashutosh Mehta’s cross produced the equaliser. The right-back has been one of the better performers for the team and he had a standout game on Tuesday.
The even fight continued into the second half. NorthEast edged the possession stats but they couldn’t convert that into clear-cut chances. But they were rewarded for their push when Kwesi Appiah was brought down inside the box by the keeper after the hour-mark, allowing the striker to score his third goal of the season.
The NorthEast defence switched off soon after they took the lead and a neat passing move at the edge of their box helped Odisha equalise. Cole Alexander received the ball at the end of the move and curled a beautiful effort into the bottom right corner of the net from the left side of the box to make it 2-2.
After witnessing two goals in as many minutes, the game then went into a slumber and neither team wanted to lose the game from that point. As a result, the spoils had to be shared.
One could say that Odisha were let down by their defence which struggled to contain and deal with the balls into the box. Before Lambot’s goal, there was a period of sustained pressure from NorthEast United where they bombarded the Odisha rearguard with several crosses.
Apart from the experienced Steven Taylor, none of the Odisha defenders could deal with the aerial balls. The fact that Baxter hasn’t changed his personnel in defence despite repeated mistakes only goes to show the lack of depth in the squad or rather, the absence of quality players.
NorthEast United, on the other hand, while possessing plenty of spirit, must start converting results or their good start to the season will be useless.