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2020-21 Indian Super League, Regular Season
  • Surchandra Singh (33' OG)
  • Rochharzela (90'+1')

ISL 2020-21: NorthEast United hand SC East Bengal third straight loss

NorthEast United FC players celebrate the second goal against East Bengal at the Tilak Maidan. Vipin Pawar / Sportzpics for ISL

SC East Bengal have become the first ISL side to lose the first three matches of their debut season after NorthEast United beat them 2-0 at the Tilak Maidan. A Surchandra Singh own-goal and a stunning counter-attack finished off by Rochharzela made the difference in a feisty encounter.

Robbie Fowler's men started on the front foot, pushing NorthEast deeper and deeper. Within five minutes, they had two presentable chances. Scott Neville headed one into Gurmeet Singh's hands and Narayan Das failed to connect with another lovely cross.

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In the 19th minute, it appeared that Ashutosh Mehta had clattered into EB's Jacques Maghoma inside the NorthEast box, but the referee waved play on. The controversial decision seemed to spur East Bengal on and they kept pushing forward.

NorthEast had their best moments down the right flank, with Ninthoi having the better of Narayan Das but he couldn't find a precise final ball.

It was down this flank the breakthrough came, with Kwesi Appiah running onto a long-ball and whipping in a cross that was turned in via Surchandra's knee as he and Idrissa Sylla went for it.

East Bengal had a chance to draw level in the second minute of first half stoppage time, but Appiah was on hand to effect a crucial goalline clearance.

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Fowler withdrew the ineffectual Balwant Singh at half time and replaced him with CK Vineeth. The latter provided more of a direct threat, but the NorthEast defence remained impregnable. With EB throwing men forward, NorthEast provided a threat on the counter, especially after the introduction of VP Suhair and Rochharzela.

NorthEast had a few nervy moments -- a risky, but fair, Benjamin Lambot challenge and a handball shout in particular - but Suhair and Rochharzela combined to make the game safe in the first minute of stoppage time with a stunning counter.

Suhair ran at, and past, a couple of EB defenders, before putting it on a plate for Rochharzela, who passed it in from four yards out.

After the match, Robbie Fowler insisted that he felt his team had "deserved the win and that "decisions had gone against us."

He berated his team's "schoolboy errors", which he "could not legislate for." He added that some of his players "lack an understanding of the game and that they should understand when to defend and how to defend." He also spoke about the waywardness of their play in possession, "If you are giving the ball away with a 10 yard pass... it's school boy football. If you keep giving the ball away cheaply, you will be punished in a professional league."

He also had words about the refereeing, feeling that his team should have got two penalties. "It can't happen in a professional league, some of these decisions are really amateur. You don't want people talking about the league for the wrong reasons," he said.

NorthEast United have moved to second on the table with 8 points in four, while East Bengal remain marooned at the bottom, the only team yet to register a point or indeed, score a goal.