NorthEast United FC kept their fate of reaching the ISL play-offs in their own hands, following a deserved 2-1 win over Delhi Dynamos at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Wednesday. NorthEast have now set up a virtual shootout against Kerala Blasters on December 4; NorthEast must win that clash, while Kerala can qualify with even a draw.
Delhi missed an early chance to go ahead when Florent Malouda played Richard Gadze through in the third minute. With only NorthEast's keeper Rehenesh Paramba to beat, Gadze shot just wide of the right post. Delhi would go on to regret that miss, as second-half goals from Seityasen Singh and Romaric saw NorthEast through. Marcelo Pereira snatched a stoppage-time goal for Delhi, but it was too little too late.
NorthEast were handed a huge blow early in the game when their forward Nico Velez was forced off due to injury 12 minutes into the game, but his replacement Robert Cullen played a crucial part in the win.
With Delhi already through, Gianluca Zambrotta's men looked reluctant to attack, instead happy to pass the ball around, forcing NorthEast to play on the counter. After a shaky first 20 minutes, NorthEast began to get a foot-hold in the game, and looked the likelier of the two to score, despite Delhi enjoying 68% of the possession.
The breakthrough came in the 60th minute with Seityasen scoring only his second goal of the season. On the counter, the defender Didier Zokora found Seityasen with a long ball. Delhi's defender Souvik Chakraborty got on the wrong side of Seityasen, who cut in near the goal line before slotting home a low shot from a tight angle past the onrushing Antonio Doblas.
In the 71st minute, NorthEast doubled their lead. Romaric made a run into the box, and was found with a perfect pass from Cullen. With Doblas coming forward, Romaric's powerful low shot scorched into goal.
Marcelo, who scored a hat-trick in the last game for Delhi, pulled one back in the final moments of the game, as he dummied Zokora in the box and smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a wide angle. There was hardly any time left to force an equaliser, though.
The win was NorthEast's first against Delhi in the ISL, and takes them to 18 points. Nelo Vingada's men know a similar result against Kerala, who are on 19, will be enough to take them through.