NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) ended their Durand Cup campaign with a win, overcoming Sudeva Delhi FC 2-0 in a Group D match at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Friday.
Captain Dipu Mirdha scored the opener for the hosts while Gani Ahmed Nigam converted from the spot in stoppage time of the second half to round off a well-earned victory.
With this win, NEUFC finished fourth in the Group, ending their campaign with three points while Sudeva finished at the bottom of the table with two points.
Sudeva began the first half brightly and showed attacking intent. They maintained possession of the ball and created chances.
Sridarth Nongmeikapam broke through inside the box in the second minute itself, but his effort was feeble and Khoirom Jackson Singh in the NEUFC goal, brought about a comfortable save, his first of what was going to be a few in the half.
Jackson had to be alert again as Ghanian Issac Kwame Essel and Sukhandeep Singh tested him with attempted shots from various angles and distances from that same right-hand side, all in the first quarter of an hour.
NEUFC got one of their own in that time as well, when Dipu Mirdha, the brightest spot by a distance, in the NEUFC attack, took a long ranger which bounced dangerously close to Sachin Jha in the Sudeva goal, but he about managed to salvage the situation.
The Highlanders had another chance to score when Sandeep Thapa was found inside the box in some space. His powerful shot from close from the left-hand side of the Sudeva box forced Sachin into yet another tip-over.
NorthEast coach Subam Rabha changed personnel in the second half that saw his team play much better football. They maintained possession and coordinated well to create pressure on the Sudeva defence.
Substitutes Jithin M.S, Emil Benny, Gani Ahmed Nigam along with captain Dipu Mirdha created more and more chances for the home side.
The first goal then followed in the 64th minute by who else but Dipu Mirdha. Jithin had made a beautiful run from the left flank, dodging two defenders in the process of penetrating the box. He then delivered a cut-back pass inside the box and the onrushing Dipu finished with ease.
Minutes later Dipu had a chance to double NEUFC’s lead from a pass by Gani, but the forward blasted the ball over the bar in front of an open post.
NorthEast continued to maintain possession and did not give Sudeva any chance to create any meaningful attacks. They sealed the match in the sixth minute stoppage time from a penalty awarded, when Sudeva keeper Sachin brought down Dipu inside the box. The penalty was converted by Gani Ahmed, which was also the last kick of the match.