Kerala Blasters looked like they would finally register three points for the second time this season, until NorthEast United had a late comeback with two goals in stoppage time at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Friday night.
The game started at a brisk pace with both teams creating a few chances in the initial stages but it turned into a goalless first half.
Blasters scored first in the 73rd minute as an unmarked Matej Poplatnik headed home the ball from substitute Zakeer Mundampara’s corner kick to break the deadlock against the run of play.
After this NorthEast threw everything they had at the Blasters until finally managing to secure the equaliser through Bartholomew Ogbeche in the 92nd minute.
After 6 minutes were added for injury time, Blasters’ skipper Sandesh Jhingan pushed Juan Mascia inside his box, whose consequent fall, earned his team a crucial penalty. Ogbeche netted his 7th goal of the season to equalise for his team.
Three minutes later and Uruguayan striker, Juan Cruz Mascia, scored the winner for the Highlanders in the 96th minute to give Northeast United their first home victory of the season.
Head coach David James regrets some of the decisions his players made on the field but maintained that the referees did a fair job
“The atmosphere in the dressing room is devastating of course. To lead against a top team away from home and conceding late is never great. I think it’s the decisions that cost us the game.
“No complaints about the penalty I think it was a fair one. The decision to go in for the tackle like that was difficult and I think the forward was inviting the opportunity to go down. I have nothing to say about the referees on that one. Then it was 1-1 and the momentum swung in their favour.”
It was bad decision making and not complacency that dealt Kerala the loss according to James.
“I don’t think our players became complacent after scoring the goal. You need to avoid giving your opponent an easy opportunity to score a goal and giving penalties away is one of them.”