Atletico de Kolkata hit back in spectacular fashion to floor NorthEast United FC 2-1 in an entertaining Hero Indian Super League battle at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Friday. Helder Postiga came on in the second half and changed the complexion of the match as he scored the equalizer.
NorthEast United seemed destined to stay at the top of the table when Emiliano Alfaro provided the hosts with a first-half lead. But Atletico de Kolkata struck back in the second session with goals from marquee player Helder Postiga and Juan Belencoso in the 82nd minute.
The win took Atletico de Kolkata to the top with 12 points at the end of their first-leg matches while NorthEast United have to settle for the third spot with 10 points after losing their last two matches at home.
Both teams surprised their fans with changes to the line-up. While NorthEast United left out Romaric and Nicolas Velez from the starting line-up due to injuries, the visitors surprised many by leaving the hardworking Iain Hume on the bench. Marquee player Helder Postiga made a return to the side but could only make it to the bench at the start.
Alfaro was a constant danger as his pace was troubling rival defenders. He tried to win a penalty when he collided into the goalkeeper but the referee simply waved play on.
The Uruguayan striker could not be denied his chance to enter his name in the scorers list in the 39th minute. It was a perfect team-goal and started with a throw-in. Nirmal Chhetri controlled the ball on the right, played a nice one-two with Katsumi Yusa and then whipped a delightful ball across the face of goal where Alfaro made no mistake with his header.
In the second session, Atletico de Kolkata made changes, bringing in Postiga for Sameehg Doutie. The former Portugal striker showed remarkable touch to create panic in the rival defence whenever he had the ball and finally managed to score the equaliser in the 63rd minute. A cross from Lalrindika Ralte was perfect for Postiga who beat his NorthEast counterpart, Didier Zokoro, to head home the equaliser.
NorthEast United were forced into a double substitution in the 77th minute after goalkeeper Subrata Paul picked up an injury. The home team had to make two changes to balance the foreign-domestic player combination and within minutes Atletico de Kolkata scored the winner.
Postiga’s shot from distance in the 82nd minute was deflected and it fell for Ralte, whose cross from across the face of goal saw Belencoso tap it inside an empty goal with NorthEast United defence nowhere to be seen.