Guwahati, Feb 10 (PTI) Tomi Juric struck twice as NorthEast United registered a clinical 3-2 win over East Bengal to storm into the top six of the Indian Super League (ISL) table here on Saturday.
In the first match of the day's double header, Juric (4th, 66th) and Nestor Albiach (15th) scored for the hosts, while Nandhakumar Sekar (53rd) and Felicio Brown Forbes (82nd) found the back of the net for East Bengal.
The home side seemed eager to stamp their authority in the proceedings early on, especially to respond to the 5-0 drubbing they had gone through at the Salt Lake against the Red & Gold Brigade in December.
Spanish attacking talisman Nestor Albiach was at the forefront of it, setting up the opening strike by Juric before netting the second one 15 minutes into the match.
In the fourth minute, Nestor squared up a delivery for Juric that the latter merely tapped in to the net to open the scoring.
However, the second goal was even more impressive, with the Highlanders capitalising on the high line that the East Bengal defence had employed.
Juan Pedro Benali’s side broke into a swift counter attack, with Redeem Tlang splitting open the visitors with a sharp assist that Nestor got to the end of and netted to double the lead.
Those dynamic plays suggested that the Highlanders meant business and it helped them go into the break with a two-goal lead.
East Bengal emerged an energised unit after the break, and clawed back with a move similar to the one that had resulted in the strike by Nestor.
It was Cleiton Silva who helped the team break through the NorthEast United backline with a through ball for Sekar in the 53rd minute.
Sekar has set up many such deliveries for the Brazilian this season and Silva returned the favour, helping the former Odisha FC striker cut the deficit with a neat finish.
Merely 13 minutes later, Juric launched a powerful shot from the left edge of the box, with the effort beating a fully stretched Prabsukhan Singh Gill and helping the Highlanders bag their third goal of the game.
Silva seemed eager to get something out of the match, and he dribbled actively inside the box before shooting with his left foot.
Forbes headed in the rebound from close range, but the effort was not enough to secure them a point from the encounter. PTI ATK UNG