Egged on by a vociferous home crowd, NorthEast United FC kick-started their campaign in the 3rd Hero Indian Super League on a winning note with a 1-0 victory over Kerala Blasters, in Guwahati, on Saturday.
After a barren first session where NorthEast United dominated for long spells, Katsumi Yusa scored the all-important goal in the 54th minute.
NorthEast United were determined to get a positive result from the opener and fielded an attacking line-up with Nicolas Velez, Holicharan Narzary and Emiliano Alfaro in attacking positions.
Kerala, on the other hand, were content in soaking up the pressure which they did well in the first 45 minutes but succumbed to NorthEast's might in the second session.
NorthEast United started the stronger of the two teams although there were hardly any chances in the opening minutes. The home side got their first look at goal in the 24th minute, thanks to a sloppy pass by Kerala goalkeeper Graham Stack which was almost captialised by Nicolas Velez. The lazy kick fell to Romaric who struck from a distance but had no power to beat and embarrass the rival goalkeeper.
Kerala Basters tried hard to find the equaliser and came close just after the hour mark. Jhingan's attempted cross sailed unintentionally towards goal and Subrata Paul dived frenetically to keep the ball away from danger. From the
resultant corner kick, Subrata left his charge needlessly, got stranded but German's strike from close range missed the target by a whisker.