Khalid Jamil creates history as NorthEast qualify for ISL playoffs with 2-0 win over Kerala

NorthEast United needed only a point to qualify but the Highlanders thoroughly outplayed Kerala Blasters and win 2-0 to enter the knockout phase for only the second time in their history.
NorthEast United FC players celebrate after Indian Super League match between NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC. (Photo | PTI)
NorthEast United FC players celebrate after Indian Super League match between NorthEast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC. (Photo | PTI)

History was made at the Tilak Maidan ground in Vasco on Friday as Khalid Jamil became the first Indian coach to lead an Indian Super League club to the play-offs.
NorthEast United needed only a point to qualify but the Highlanders thoroughly outplayed Kerala Blasters and win 2-0 to enter the knockout phase for only the second time in their history.
Kerala-boy VP Suhair scored the first while a wonder striker from Apuia helped the Highlanders continue their dream run under Jamil.

The sky is now the limit for this underdog outfit which continues to exceed expectations under a coach who is gaining the reputation of being one of the best young coaches in India and his achievement could carve a new path for Indian coaches in the ISL.   

All eyes were on how NorthEast were going to line up and Jamil decided not to risk his talisman Federico Gallego and fielded the same team for this crucial encounter.
With only a point needed, Gallego was named on the bench but the Highlanders didn't need to call upon him as the players named in the starting eleven got the job done for them.
They had a very cautious start to the game with Blasters enjoying more possession in dangerous areas as NorthEast just sat back.

Ishfaq Ahmed's side tried to stretch the NorthEast defence but they were cool, calm and collected and kept their shape and discipline.
Bakary Kone missed a sitter inside the first ten minutes when he made a mess of a free header from a Jessel Carneiro corner.
Blasters hardly threatened the NorthEast backline after that and once the first drinks break got over, NorthEast switched gears and took the game away from Blasters.
Even though they only had to play for a point, Jamil's side decided to test the brittle Blasters defence and got their reward immediately after the drinks break.
Suhair managed to shrug off his marker and got on the end of a beautifully threaded pass from Khassa Camara.

The striker slammed the ball past Albino to make it 1-0 as NorthEast were up and running. Blasters never really recovered from there as it was one-way traffic from there on.
The highlight of the game came when the first half was drawing to a close. Lalengmawia got hold of the ball around forty yards away from goal and after running a few yards, he unleashed a thunderbolt past Albino to make it 2-0 at the stroke of half-time.

In the second half, it was all about game management for the Highlanders. With Blasters hardly threatening their goal, it was about playing out the remaining minutes and avoiding any mistakes or picking up injuries or bookings. They could have hit a third when Deshorn Brown's curling effort hit the crossbar and came out.

Blasters were struggling to create any real goalscoring opportunity as their campaign came to an uneventful ending. As for NorthEast, they have everything left to play for in what has been an unforgettable season. 

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