Star striker Asamoah Gyan handed NorthEast United FC their first win of the Hero Indian Super League season after netting the winner in a 2-1 result over Odisha FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium here on Saturday.
The home team drew first blood when Redeem Tlang scored the quickest goal of the season (2’). Odisha equalised through Xisco Hernandez (71’) before defender Carlos Delgado was sent off. The Highlanders made their advantage count through Gyan who popped up with a header six minutes from time.
The win takes NorthEast to the top of the table while Odisha slumped to their second loss in as many matches.
The hosts enjoyed the best possible start to the game when they roared into the lead with just two minutes on the clock. Martin Chaves started the move with a run down the left flank before finding Panagiotis Triadis down the middle. The Greek midfielder found Tlang in space down the right and the youngster tucked a finish past Arshdeep Singh to send the home crowd into raptures.
NorthEast looked assured in possession following the opener and caused a few problems for the Odisha defence. The visitors themselves had some joy going forward but poor final balls let them down.
NorthEast went close to a second goal in the 22nd minute when Triadis managed to keep a corner alive down the left and whipped a cross in for Wayne Vaz, whose header flew inches wide of the target.
Odisha started to grow into the game around the half an hour mark and almost got a goal of their own. Xisco Hernandez whipped a freekick into the box and it was met by Delgado, but he saw his header acrobatically pushed on to the bar by custodian Subhasish Roy Chowdhury.
Odisha head coach Josep Gombau opted to make a double change at half-time, bringing in Senegalese midfielder Diawandou Diagne and winger Nandhakumar Sekar. And the substitutes almost immediately did the job for Gombau. Diagne, after a good run down the right, flashed a dangerous cross across the face of goal in the 51st minute.
Nandha went close for Odisha soon after as they turned up the heat on NorthEast. The winger latched on to a fantastic chipped pass from Xisco to get into the box, sidestepped a defender and pulled the trigger, only to see his effort cleared off the line by an alert Kai Heerings.
The pressure finally told for Odisha in the 71st minute. Diagne’s brilliant cross from the right was flicked in smartly by Xisco with the outside of his left boot.
However, drama ensued two minutes later as Delgado was sent off for bringing down NorthEast substitute Maximilian Barreira.
With numerical advantage on their side, NorthEast piled on the pressure. They created a flurry of chances before finally getting the winner six minutes from time. Lalthathanga Khawlhring’s corner was headed in by star striker Gyan to hand his side their first win of the season.