A lacklustre performance from the Islanders saw Jorge Costa's side go down 2-0 to NorthEast United FC as goals from Rowllin Borges and Bartholomew Ogbeche helped them bag 3 points at the Arena. The win saw Mumbai City FC move one spot down to third with NorthEast United FC taking the second spot.
Arnold Issoko returned to the playing XI, replacing Bipin Singh and Anwar Ali taking the place of the suspended Lucian Goian in the two changes from the Boss. It was an unexpected start for the Islanders as they conceded as early as the 4th minute after Keegan Pereira's brilliant run down the left-side found an unmarked Rowllin Borges in the box, who made no mistake by placing the ball into the top corner.
It was a wake up call for the Islanders who took sometime to settle into the game. The first chance that the home side got was when Rafael Bastos' effort from the edge of the box hit the crossbar with Pawan Kumar beaten to it. A couple of minutes later, Rowllin Borges had a chance to double the lead for the away side as he won his duel against Vignesh Dakshinamurthy but headed the ball straight into Amrinder's hands.
The Islanders were struggling for creativity to break down a stubborn NorthEast defence. A couple of minutes before the half an hour mark, Arnold was set free after racing onto a poor back pass in the box but his effort from a tight angle didn't trouble the goalkeeper. The visitors doubled the lead in the 33rd minute as Reagan Singh got behind the defence and delivered a powerful cross into the box which evaded everyone and found Ogbeche's knee and rolled into an empty net. The home fans were stunned with the Islanders trailing by two goals in a crucial encounter.
Jorge Costa made a tactical switch by taking Vignesh off for Mohammed Rafique and playing him in the right back position. It also meant that Souvik Chakrabarti switched to left-back. Unfortunately for the Islanders, Subhasish Bose's presence was being missed. Meanwhile, the visitors were in no mood to slow down, as Panagiotis Triadis came close to adding a third but his low drilling shot hit the post with Amrinder having no chance at it.
The first half ended with the Islanders trailing by two goals at the Arena for the first time this season. The crowd expected Jorge Costa's boys to start the second half positively but that didn't reflect on the field as they failed to create any clear cut openings with the visitors in firm control after the first 10 minutes.
In the 57th minute, a long ball from Raynier Fernandes found Marko Klisura's run in the box but he failed to control the ball and the chance went begging. It seemed like the boys were finding their rhythm but were unable to gain the required momentum to put the NorthEast defence under immense pressure.
Matias Mirabaje was introduced for Paulo Machado in the hopes of turning the game around with 20 minutes to go. In the 71st minute, Arnold found Modou Sougou with just one defender to beat. The Senegalese forward turned past his marker and went for goal with his left foot but he was let down with a bad connection on the ball.
The next effort fell to Rafael Bastos who tried to curl the ball into the top corner but it didn't test the NorthEast goalkeeper. With a little over 10 minutes to go, Arnold tried a cheeky chip from distance after seeing Pawan Kumar off his line but his effort flew over the crossbar. Things were just not going right for the Islanders in front of the home fans who expected to get back to winning ways. The game ended with not many chances on offer towards the end barring substitute Redeem Tlang's effort that went past the far post in the 93rd minute.
The second phase of Hero ISL 2018-19 has been harsh for the Islanders as they have picked up just 3 points from a possible 12. A huge worry for Jorge Costa would be the team's form, having lost the last 3 games and not scoring in any of them. The Islanders ended their home campaign with 16 points (5 wins, 1 draw and 3 defeats) and currently remain on 27 points from 16 games.
Up next is a tricky away encounter for against ATK in Kolkata on 22nd February with the battle for a top 4 spot heating up with every passing game.