Spanish striker Koke’s opportunistic first-half strike ensured a 1-0 win for the NorthEast FC against Sachin Tendulkar co-owned Kerala Blasters
FC in the second match of the Hero Indian Super League, in Guwahati on Monday.
The former Marseille frontman struck at the stroke of the break in the 45th minute with a snap angular right-footer that beat former England custodian David James, manning the Blasters bar.
It was an Aibor Khongjee throw inside the box towards David Ngaihte, who rolled it towards the tip of the box for the Koke. The 31-year-old ‘Man from Malaga’ took a first time shot to find the net.
NorthEast could have gone ahead in the 33rd minute when a 30-yard pile-driver from Durga Boro was brilliantly saved by an airborne James.
Boro unleashed a lethal punch with his outstep and James dived full stretch to keep the home team at bay despite the vociferous support from the partisan capacity crowd at the Indira Gandhi Stadium.
With support of Tendulkar from the stands, Blasters could have got the lead but an Iain Hume goal was ruled off-side by the referee.
It was Jamie McAllister who dropped in a beautiful assist on the left flank for Stephen Pearson, whose assist saw Hume tap in the ball but referee ruled it off-side.
It was the ‘Yellow Brigade’ coached by Trevor Morgan, who were on the ascendancy during the better part of the 30 minutes but former East Bengal playmaker Penn Orji and current Mohun Bagan striker CS Sabeeth could not provide the team with decisive result.
In the 27th minute, Sabeeth dodged past defender and took a strong shot towards the near post. NorthEast custodian Alexandros Tzorvas dives brilliantly to avert the danger.
In the 55th minute, Hume charged down the right flank to essay a measured cross, along the ground, in front of the goal but Aibor Khongjee cleared it for a corner.
The biggest disappointment for the Blasters was former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra.
Within seven minutes of each other, Chopra messed up couple of chances.
In the 77th minute, Chopra twists and turns to get away from three defenders, makes space and fires it towards the far post but Tzorvas dived to his right to parry it away.
In the 84th minute, Hume received a header inside the box but as he got unbalnced, he tried to lob the ball over the keeper Tzorvas gets fingertips to it but the ball was cleared by Robin Gurung.
Gurung’s clearance went to Chopra, who was within five yards but his shot didn’t have the requisite punch or the placement to find the net.