Vasco (Goa): NorthEast United qualified for the ISL play-offs with a 2-0 win over Kerala Blasters in their final league game here on Friday.
Keralite forward V P Suhair gave NorthEast the lead in the 34th minute. Midfielder Lalengmawia doubled the lead in added time of first half.
The win took the Highlanders to third spot in the 11-team ISL with 33 points. Blasters ended their campaign in 10th place with 17 points.
ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC have also made it to the play-offs. The race for the final play-off spot is between FC Goa and Hyderabad FC. Goa can go through with a draw, while Hyderabad need to win Sunday's game to book their place.
Needing just a point to qualify for their second-ever play-offs, the Highlanders showed no signs of stopping as they attacked from the start. They gained a big advantage in the first half through goals from V P Suhair (34’) and Lalengmawia (45’).
Coach Khalid Jamil fielded an unchanged XI from their previous game while Blasters had just one change with Sandeep Singh preferred over Subha Ghosh.
The Highlanders fashioned a great opportunity soon after the start. Luis Machado sent in a delivery into the box, which was headed out straight back to him. His cross from the right found Dylan Fox but he shot wide.
At the other end, Blasters missed an opportunity to draw first blood. Bakary Kone managed to evade his marker and to get to the end of a Jessel Carneiro corner, but his header missed the target.
Though NorthEast were clearly the better side in the first half, Blasters did have their chances. But the Highlanders’ defence stood strong. Then, in the 34th minute, NorthEast took the lead.
Khassa Camara slipped in a through ball which Kone failed to deal with. Suhair got on to the ball and got past Sandeep Singh, before rounding off an advancing Albino Gomes.
Jamil's men increased their lead just before the breather through an astonishing Lalengmawia strike. Fox set up Lalengmawia, whose well-struck long-ranger bounced off the underside of the bar into the net. Jamil’s ecstatic look at the touchline showed just how good the goal was.
Blasters had a better start to the second period of play. They created chances through Rahul K P and Gary Hooper, but the finish eluded them. At the other end, Gomes was forced into a fine save when Machado showed his brilliance and on entering the box, tried his luck.
Then Deshorn Brown, missed a great opportunity, striking the crossbar.
Despite their chances, NEUFC just couldn’t get their third. Their best chance came when Federico Gallego played a weighted pass to Brown, who managed to evade Gomes. However, his shot from a tight angle found the side netting.
(With inputs from ISL Media)