Second half substitute Nicolas Velez scored the decisive goal as NorthEast United FC beat defending champions Atletico de Kolkata 1-0 in their Indian Super League football match in Guwahati on Friday.
The nippy Argentine striker, who came into the field inthe 63rd minute, scored for the second successive game as NorthEast won two matches on the trot after losing three matches in a row.
After a barren first session, Velez scored the only goal in the 77th minute.
With Friday’s win, NorthEast are now sixth on the table with six points.
Atletico de Kolkata suffered their second reverse in as many games after being the only team to remain unbeaten at the end of the fourth round. They have seven points from five matches.
NorthEast coach Cesar Farias did not have to make too many changes to the team that defeated Chennaiyin FC 2-0 in the previous clash.
The hosts had a spring in their steps early in the game and had the first chance in the 22nd minute when they appealed for a penalty after Rino Anto brought down Bruno Arias. The referee, however, adjudged that the foul was just outside the box.
Bruno himself lined-up to take the free kick but saw ATK goalkeeper Amrinder Singh dive to his left to keep away the curling attempt.
Six minutes later, Amrinder was called into action again as Reagan Singh’s volley from just outside the box was set for the top corner only for the goalkeeper to make a top-notch save.
Atletico de Kolkata were subdued in the opening session but had a chance in the 41st minute when Jaime Gavilan’s corner kick was headed by Ofentse Nato but Cameroon defender Andre Bikey was on hand to turn away the ball for a corner.
In the second half, it was Kolkata all the way at the start. In the 49th minute, Gavilan got the better of two players and found Iain Hume unmarked. The Canadian striker crossed for Javi Lara whose shot from handshaking distance shockingly sailed wide.
In the 64th minute, Nato’s header struck the crossbar with NorthEast goalkeeper TP Reheneesh well beaten. But when Reheneesh was tested again 10 minutes later by Hume, he proved equal to the task.
Cesar Farias introduced Sanju Pradhan and Nicolas Velez in an ambitious double substitution and it worked for the hosts. In the 77th minute, Sanju’s shot was initially blocked by Arnab Mondal but the ball fell for Velez who did well to pick the far corner of the net.
The goal stunned Atletico de Kolkata and despite their attempts to claw their way back, NorthEast stood firm to run away winners in front of their home crowd.