Indian Super League: Mascia does it for NEUFC

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A raucous home support of around 22,000 went into wild celebrations following the last minute winner converted from the spot by substitute Juan Mascia.

North East United FC made the most of a penalty awarded in the last minute of the injury-time to beat visitor Bengaluru FC 2-1 and mustered the advantage of leading the first leg of the double tier semifinal of the Hero ISL, here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Thursday.

A raucous home support of around 22,000 went into wild celebrations following the last minute winner converted from the spot by substitute Juan Mascia. The host went ahead in the 20th minute off a goal from Redeem Tlang, which was cancelled by Bengaluru FC substitute Xisco Hernandes in the 82nd minute.

The host played a fantastic first half and started creating opportunities from the third minute when Lalthathanga Khawlhring threatened to down the Down the Bengaluru citadel. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sindhu scampered to save the situation host remained more creative by playing a nice passing game.

After Redeem had missed an assist from Federico Gallego in the 13th minute, the Highlanders came back strongly in the 20th minute to find the target. Bartholomew Ogbeche moved down from his position as the centre forward to find and unmarked Redeem running up from the right. The North East right-half collected the ball calmly and moved inside the box and switched to his left foot to essay a curling shot that saw the ball landing on the far side of the net with Sandhu transfixed in his position.

Bengaluru tried to regroup after conceding the goal and could have found it in the 24th minute when Dimas Delgado tried a cracking left-footer just to see the North East goalkeeper Pawan Kumar collecting on the second attempt before Miku could avail the rebound. The host suffered a big blow in the last minute when the man at the centre of its attack plan, Ogbeche, left the ground apparently injuring his left foot.

In absence of Ogbeche, North East returned to a defensive plan after the break as Bengaluru tried to cancel the host’s advantage stepping up the offensive. It saw more of Miku and captain Sunil Chhetri in the attacking third and that opened up the goal route in the 82nd minute. Chhetri did the hard work this time playing a one-two with Miku to get free inside the North East box. As he got too deep in the North East box, the Bengaluru captain set up an onrushing Xisco to tap home the equaliser. Just as the appeared to be celebrating a drawn encounter came the penalty for the host as referee Santosh Kumar penalised up Harmanjot Khabra from pulling down Mascia inside own box following a free-kick.

The result: Semifinal 1

North East United FC 2 (Redeem Tlang 20, Juan Mascia 90+3-pen) bt Bengaluru FC 1 (Xisco Hernandes 82).

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