East Bengal FC recorded their biggest ever Indian Super League victory by triumphing 5-0 over NorthEast United FC at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Monday.
All good things take time, and the Red & Gold Brigade seemed to trust the process being implemented by head coach Carles Cuadrat ever since he took over the reins in the summer.
From a runners-up finish in the Durand Cup to a strong start to the season, things looked hunky-dory for East Bengal initially. However, that purple patch hit a roadblock soon after, with the team succumbing to successive close draws, lingering on the lower half of the points table.
Heading into this match against the Highlanders, East Bengal had been without a league victory for over two months. However, things turned around and how in this match!
From a sensational long-range strike by Borja Herrera in the 14th minute to a brilliant brace by Cleiton Silva, the home side were flawless in their build up and clinical in their finishes. Yet, it was the twin strikes by substitute Nandhakumar Sekar that stole the show tonight.
Nandhakumar had always been an impressive talent, but the vigour and sharpness with which he has been operating this season has Cuadrat’s impact on it. He had assisted both goals scored by Naorem Mahesh Singh this season, but in this match, the latter ended up setting the two strikes by Nandhakumar.
A slight change in positions was at the cause of that, with Mahesh shifting to a wider role and delivering accurate crosses that Nandhakumar tapped upon in the 62nd and the 81st minutes respectively.
There was a sense of inevitability with his movements near the box, with Nandhakumar sniffing goal-scoring opportunities immediately and converting them with laudable efficiency. In addition to that, he assisted the second goal by Silva, as the Brazilian became the joint top-scoring player (7) against NorthEast United FC along with league stalwarts like Sunil Chhetri, Marcelinho and Mohun Bagan Super Giant star Liston Colaco. Earlier, he had nodded in a cross by Mandar Rao Dessai in the 24th minute to open his tally for the night.