Iain Hume grabbed a dramatic equalizer in the 90th minute to cancel out Nicolas Velez's early goal as Atletico de Kolkata rescued a point against NorthEast United at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on Thursday.
The draw helped NorthEast climb off the bottom as they avoided their fifth straight defeat. Atletico de Kolkata remain strong contenders for the playoffs after the first ever draw between the two teams.
Jose Molina made three changes to the ATK side following the 2-2 draw against Delhi in the last game, bringing Arnab Mondal, Stephen Pearson and Javi Lara back into the starting line-up. Aiming to avoid a fifth straight loss, Nelo Vingada made four changes, as Emiliano Alfaro, Romaric, Nirmal Chhetri and Robin Gurung all got a start.
Velez capitalized on a defensive error to put NorthEast in front in the fifth minute. The striker pounced onto Henrique Sereno's pass back into the danger area before going around the keeper to slot the ball home. It was Velez's first goal of the season as he became only the fourth NEUFC player to get on the scoresheet in ISL 2016.
ATK had beaten NEUFC 2-1 in Guwahati earlier in the season, which had begun NorthEast's four-match losing streak going into this fixture. NEUFC remain joint-holders of the infamous record of the worst losing streak in a single ISL season alongside Kerala, who lost four on the trot in 2015.
NorthEast remained compact in defence after the goal, and looked better going forward, constantly threatening ATK on the break. Both Hume and Postiga were marked closely as ATK struggled to find clear openings despite dominating possession for much of the half.
Postiga produced ATK's first shot on goal in the 28th minute, finding a bit of space on the edge of the box after a half clearance, only to see it go wide.
Centre-back Sereno nearly put ATK level in the 35th minute, heading a Javi Lara free-kick on target. But the effort lacked power and fell straight to Subrata Paul.
NorthEast dropped deeper in the remainder of the half, frustrating the hosts and virtually silencing the home crowd. Romaric was a towering presence in midfield for NEUFC alongside Rowlin Borges, dictating the tempo of the game and occasionally surging forward to start a break.
Velez and Alfaro remained isolated up front in the second half, as NorthEast threw more bodies in front of their defence.
Javi Lara's inswinging corner from the left almost snuck in at the far post in the 53rd minute, but Robin Gurung was on hand to head it off the line.
Nicolas Velez could have doubled his tally in 68th minute, finding space inside the box after another slack piece of defending during a corner routine. But his stinging shot across goal was cleared to safety.
The game opened up in the last half an hour as ATK intensified their search for an equalizer, further exposing their backline to a break. Debjit was forced into action in 71st minute, grabbing onto Alfaro's header from close range to keep the hosts alive. Debjit pulled off an even better save in the 82nd minute, diving to his left to keep out Alfaro, who had the goal at his mercy after a deflected shot.
ATK's equalizer finally came in the 90th minute following a set-piece situation. Javi Lara's free-kick from the right wing was headed across goal by Postiga and then poked in by Hume, who arrived late at the far post. It was Hume's 21st ISL goal, his fifth of the season and first-ever against NorthEast United.