Ghanaian hitman’s first-ever goal in Indian Super League sealed the deal for the Highlanders on Saturday at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. NorthEast United earned all three points from a bullet header by Ghana’s World Cup star Asamoah Gyan. A hard-fought encounter combined with a brilliant attacking display by both the teams and fast tempo of the game made it a spectacle for the fans.
It started on a disastrous note for Odisha. The visitors conceded in the very 2nd minute. A lack of communication between the defenders left a huge amount of space down the left wing. Centre-backs Rana Gharami and Carlos Delgado, both were drawn out of position due to the attacking play by Martin Chaves and Panagiotis Triadis. Triadis slid a pass to Redeem Tlang who slotted it home.
The Highlanders threatened the opposition with quick build-up play and one-touch passing time and again. Gyan was the talk of the town when he signed for the Highlanders but it was Triadis who posed a continuous threat to Odisha, especially in the first half. Triadis’s trickery and Redeem’s pace was too hot for Odisha’s full-backs to handle.
Odisha, even with most of the possession, couldn’t threaten Subhasish much owing to their slow build-up play except a Delgado header that could have put them on level terms. Odisha attacked mostly from the right wing, trying to exploit the pace of Jerry. On one such occasion, a small interchange on the right flank saw Subham Sarangi put a perfect cross in the box for Carlos Delgado, whose header was pushed away brilliantly by Subhasish.
Odisha came out all guns blazing in the second half. Josep Gombau injected more pace and made double substitutions. Nandhakumar Sekar and Diawandou Diagne were brought on for the invisible Martin Guedes and already carded Shubham Sarangi. The first attack from Odisha came through Diawandou Diagne who troubled the home team with his pace and trickery.
39% of the goals came from crosses for Gombau’s Delhi in ISL 2018-19. It seems not much changed since then. Xisco scored from a brilliant cross by Diagne. Diagne twisted and turned and produced a perfect cross for Xiasco who flicked the ball in the Highlanders net. A minute after the goal Odisha were dealt a huge blow when they were reduced to ten men. Referee, Ranjit Bakshi produced a straight red to Carlos Delgado for a last-man tackle on Maximiliano Barreiro.
Odisha never looked like a team who were playing with ten men. They continuously threatened the Highlanders from their possession-based football. It was against the run of play the World Cupper Asamoah Gyan found the net losing his marker cleverly from a corner kick. Odisha never seemed to bounce back from Gyan’s late winner.
It was a thrilling encounter and both teams produced a brilliant attacking play. A hard-fought win for the Highlanders took them top of the table. Gombau’s players played their hearts out but couldn’t come out with a point from Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. In the end, Asamoah Gyan’s bullet header was the difference between both the teams.