NorthEast United FC warmed up for their do-or-die battle ahead with an encouraging 2-1 victory over Delhi Dynamos in their penultimate Hero Indian Super League clash at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Wednesday.
Seityasen Singh (60th minute) and NDri Romaric (71st minute) got the goals the hosts needed after a barren first session. Even though Marcelinho Pereira pulled a goal back for Delhi in the second minute of added time, NorthEast United were comfortably home.
The win took NorthEast United's points tally to 18 with a match in hand but they still continue to be placed fifth. Fortunately for them, they have a match in hand against Kerala Blasters (19 points) and can qualify if they can put it across their rivals for the fourth semifinal spot in Kochi on Sunday.
Kerala Blasters will qualify with a draw. Delhi Dynamos are placed second with 20 points from 13 matches and had qualified even before this loss. Delhi Dynamos, with nothing to lose, started positively and should have been ahead in the third minute itself.
Florent Malouda sent a fine through ball for Richard Gadze but the Ghanaian striker, despite having the rival defence caught out, could not keep his attempt on target with only goalkeeper T Rehenesh to beat.
NorthEast United too had their chance to surge ahead in the 18th minute but Emiliano Alfaro was found wanting. Romaric got the ball past the Delhi Dynamos defence and Alfaro had time to bury it past the keeper.
Instead, Alfaro?s attempt was parried away by goalkeeper Toni Doblas. NorthEast United wasted another opportunity in the opening half. Rowllin Borges sent Seityasen clear but the striker lacked juice in his boots to get the better of rival goalkeeper.
In the second session, NorthEast United got a goal out of nothing. In the 61st minute, Didier Zokoro sent a long ball where Seityasen sneaked in from behind, avoided a lunge from his marker and toe-poked it past the onrushing goalkeeper.
The hosts made it 2-0 in the 71st minute. It was Robert Cullen who made it happen when he played a perfectly measured ball for Romaric and the midfielder made no mistake by sending it inside the goal with the outside of his left foot.
NorthEast were comfortable in defence with a two-goal advantage and only ended up conceding in the second minute of added time. Marcelinho was the star man again for Delhi as he left Zokoro guessing his next move and before anyone could figure it out, slammed it past the goalkeeper.