The Highlanders came from behind to stamp their authority over the inexperienced debutants through three scintillating strikes in the second half after suffering an early setback. For the Highlanders, goals from Ibson Melo in the 48th minute, Captain Romain Philippoteaux in the 52nd minute and substitute Parthib Gogoi in the 78th minute, ensured an authoritative win after an early setback in the eighth minute from Parvaj Bhuiya of Downtown Heroes FC.
NEUFC who are part of Group D are now second in the group with seven points, trailing FC Goa on goal difference. Both FC Goa and NorthEast United FC have sealed their quarter final berths from Group D.
The Highlanders Coach Juan Pedro, started with six changes with a quarter final berth in sight, while debutants Downtown Heroes FC made three, including Goalkeeper Umaid.
The home side kicked off the first half with a lot of steam, but failed to capitalise on the momentum. After a failed attempt in the sixth minute through Hira Mondal the Highlanders could not breach the final third of their opponents. However, debutants Downtown Heroes lapped up the only chance and shocked the hosts drawing first blood through Parvaj Bhuiya after a howler from keeper Mirshad. It was the 8th minute of the game.
Thereafter the Downtown Heroes FC pressed hard in through Ezekiel and Parvaj, but a careful Mirshad ensured that the debutants did not get a chance to double their lead. The first half came to an end with Downtown Heroes leading 1-0.
The Highlanders returned in the second half with local boy Parthib Gogoi replacing Jithin. The game changed for good thereafter, resulting in an equalizer soon after, as Brazillian Ibson Melo made no mistakes at the chance that came his way, to find the back of the net in the 48th minute. A high ball inside the box found his feet from the head of Spaniard Zabaco.
NorthEast continued to attack and doubled their lead in the 52nd minute, when a miss-pass from Downtown Heroes just outside the box saw the captain Romain Philippoteaux make no mistake in finding the back of the net.
The next twenty odd minutes saw the Highlanders dominate, but they failed to convert any chances that came their way. However wonder boy Parthib Gogoi showcased his class once again taking out three defenders with a solo run into the box to smash in Northeast’s third goal in the 78th minute.
The game then saw Downtown Heroes make some hapless attempts to reduce the deficit but a vigilant NorthEast defense ensured there are no last-minute surprises.