NorthEast draw with Delhi Dynamos
NorthEast United FC were left to rue missed chances, particularly at the end, as they settled for a 1-1 draw against Delhi Dynamos FC in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash, in Guwahati, on Thursday.
NorthEast United have won only one of their last seven matches but continue to be in contention for a semi-final spot.
The point sees them move four points clear of fifth-placed Jamshedpur FC but they have played a game more, while Delhi Dynamos remain eighth.
After an even first-half, Marcos Tebar put the visitors in the lead in the 67th minute.
Star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche equalled Ferran Corominas in the race for the Golden Boot race by scoring his 11th goal from the spot in the 71st minute.
The Highlanders went for the kill towards the end but sawchance after chance go amiss, including a shot from Rowllin Borges which was clawed on to the crossbar by an alert Delhi goalkeeper Francisco Dorronsoro.
NorthEast looked to get Ogbeche involved in the game right from the start with several long balls. However, the offside flag and timely interceptions by the Delhi backline prevented the Nigerian from getting a free sight on goal.
NorthEast custodian TP Rehenesh almost gifted a goal to the opposition when he misplaced a pass straight to Lallianzuala Chhangte in the 24th minute.
The winger took the ball into the box and tried to side-foot it into the net but the goalkeeper made up for his error by parrying the shot away.
The game opened up as the first half wore on and the hosts went close three times at the stroke of half-time. Delhi goalkeeper Dorronsoro kept out Borges' attempts on goal twice before a curled effort by Triadis ricocheted off the post.
After the break, NorthEast kept probing and Ogbeche missed a glorious chance in the 49th minute.
With the Delhi backline looking to push up, Robert Lalthlamuana released the Nigerian behind the defence but the striker was unable to hit the target from a one-on-one with Dorronsoro.
After holding firm at the back post the break, Delhi took the lead in the 67th minute against the run of play.
Marcos Tebar started a flowing move, spread the ball wide to Nandhakumar Sekar on the right flank. The winger crossed into the box and Rehenesh could only parry it towards an onrushing Tebar who tapped it home.
The goal triggered an immediate response from the hosts. Borges fed Ogbeche into the box and he was brought down by Narayan Das and the referee awarded a penalty for the home side.
Ogbeche stepped up and scored his 11th goal of the season from 12 yards, sending Dorronsoro the wrong way.
Esqueda brace keeps East Bengal title hopes alive
A fit-again Enrique Esqueda struck twice with his clinical headers as East Bengal came from behind to down NEROCA FC 2-1 and continue their surge for a maiden I-League title in Kolkata.
In a half-an-hour of brilliance, the Mexican, who had suffered a rib injury, turned it around for East Bengal single-handedly with his goals in the 67th and 86th minutes after coming off the bench.
East Bengal found the going tough at the Saltlake Stadium, conceding a third minute goal with former Bengaluru FC striker Chencho Gyeltshen scoring on his debut from a Katsumi Yusa assist.
But as it turned out Esqueda, who had also struck a brace in the first leg, once again proved to be the difference.
At fourth place, East Bengal (28) are now two points behind second-placed Chennai City FC, the two teams with14 matches each, even as debutants Real Kashmir lead the table with 32 points from 16 matches.
Having blanked them 2-0 in the first leg with Esqueda scoring both the goals, East Bengal thus did a double on last season's runners-up.
Down 0-1 at the break, Alejandro Menendez, who fielded an unchanged East Bengal XI, brought in Esqueda in place of Antonio Rodríguez Dovale in the 58th minute.
East Bengal soon took charge of the proceedings and won the second-half comprehensively as the Imphal outfit looked to have shut their shops, adopting a defensive approach.
With NEROCA going deep into the defence, East Bengal displayed fine creativity in the midfield spacing out the opponents backline.
Minutes after coming on the pitch, Esqueda got a 35-yard freekick but he shot well over the bar.
Acosta then sent a curling cross but Varne Kallon intercepted the ball in the air.
Enrique Esqueda finally equalised for East Bengal with Jaime Santos sending a curling cross inside the box which the Mexican converted with a clinical header.
Chencho scored on his debut for NERCOA. Katsumi floated the corner but Rakshit failed to collect the ball. Didika accidentally passed the ball to Bhutanese who found the back of the net.
Esqueda's attempt from a freekick then went over in the 65th minute.
A couple of minutes later, Jaime Santos found himself unmarked in the left-flank and he set it up for Esqueda inside the box.
With Jobby Justin by his side, the Mexican went under the ball, timed his jump to perfection before putting it past goalkeeper Lalit Thapa with a swerving header.
It was yet another collective effort for East Bengal to snatch the lead when substitute Brandon Vanlalremdika brilliantly passed the ball to Samad Ali Mallick on the edge of the box.
The ball reached Esqueda after a deflection as the Mexican once again found himself at the right position, at the right time to bring up the winning header.