It isn’t over until the final whistle blows and NorthEast United FC symbolised that with two goals in added time that propelled them to come from behind and notch a 2-1 victory over Jamshedpur FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Thursday night.
“I want to thank the fans of NorthEast United FC for being patient, for holding out, but I want to promise them a great future and I think this is the start of that,” the Highlanders’ owner John Abraham said on the sidelines of the game and his boys gave the supporters a reason to smile again with their relentless spirit and attitude until the last minute.
The Red Miners came touring the Land of Blue Hills with only a solitary goal to their name in four matches this season.
In the 19th minute, when Daniel botched the first chance to put the ball into the net from the penalty, it appeared that the team’s concerns were only going to grow after this game.
However, the Nigerian showed quick awareness to pounce upon the ball that deflected back from NorthEast goalkeeper Mirshad Michu and roll it past the custodian to bring some happiness and put them 1-0 up.
Sheer Akhtar who had gotten on the scoresheet in NEUFC’s emphatic 3-0 win over Chennaiyin FC at this very venue a few weeks ago tried to double his goal-scoring tally with a couple of terrific attempts in the second half, with the latter being a sharp, well-directed, and powerful long-range effort that just missed the target.
However, it was NEUFC’s seasoned duo of Michel Zabaco and Ibson Melo who injected precision gameplay with their exemplary output in the 10 minutes of extra time. NorthEast were on the lookout for the equaliser and they grabbed the opportunity through a sweet strike from Zabaco that landed in the middle of the net in the 94th minute.
The momentum that they gained from that goal pushed them to find a winner, resulting in Romain Philippoteaux winning a spot-kick in the final minute.
Melo, shouldering the expectations of the entire stadium, confidently stepped up to the challenge and drilled the ball home in the 97th minute to get his team a victory that they will remember and rejoice for the rest of the season, with team owner John Abraham clapping and cheering his boys post the final whistle.
Jamshedpur FC will now play hosts to Mohun Bagan Super Giant at the JRD Tata Sports Complex on November 1, whereas the Highlanders will travel to Bhubaneswar to take on Odisha FC on November 3.