Jordan Murray came off the bench to score the winner as Jamshedpur FC showed character of the highest order to edge past NorthEast United 3-2 and stay one point away from a maiden semifinal berth, in the Indian Super League at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda on Friday.
Seiminlen Doungel (35th) gave Jamshedpur the lead before Greg Stewart (59th) made it 2-0 in the second half. But in the space of two minutes, Laldanmawia Ralte (66th) and Marcelinho (68th) found the back of the net twice to level matters. In the end, however, Murray came on and scored the third for JFC to underline their tag as one of the contenders for the League Shield and the title this season.
Jamshedpur now have 34 points from 17 matches and will need just one point to ensure a semifinal spot. They have a game in hand to league leaders, Hyderabad who have played 18 matches and have 35 in their kitty. For NorthEast United, all is lost and a defeat means they are rooted to 10th place with 13 points from 19 games. They take on bottom-club SC East Bengal in their final game of the season.
The match got off to an eventful start, Mirshad Michu colliding with Daniel Chima Chukwu inside the area as Jamshedpur appealed vehemently for a penalty.
Jamshedpur, as they do more often than not, were getting balls inside the box and using the width of the pitch to find Chukwu, with the in-form Nigerian striker causing a few problems for NorthEast United defenders.
Owen Coyle’s team were creating chance after chance and finally broke the deadlock just after the cooling break. From a Ricky Lallawmawma throw-in, Mobashir Rahman found an unmarked Doungel with a brilliant cross at the far post with the striker calmly heading home past Michu who should have done better at his near post.
Jamshedpur ended the half with a 1-0 lead but skipper Peter Hartley picked up a knock and had to be replaced after the change of ends. Narender Gahlot came in for him.
For NorthEast United, Marco Sahanek made way for Marcelinho as Khalid Jamil looked keen on testing the Marcelinho-Brown combination to get them the equaliser. But it was more misery for the NEUFC as Jamshedpur doubled their advantage.
It was another Stewart special as the Scotsman took his goal tally to 10 this season, same as Igor Angulo, with a solo effort darting down the right flank after being set up by Mobashir to then cut inside and dink the ball past Michu with aplomb.
Just when it looked like Jamshedpur were on course for another victory, NorthEast United scored two goals in the space of two minutes to turn the game on its head. First, Laldanmawia Ralte smashed home a rebound from a Marcelinho shot which was parried only as far as him by T.P. Rehenesh. In the next minute, Marcelinho was seen running at Jamshedpur defenders, the Brazilian then rounding Rehenesh to guide the ball into an empty net.
But Jamshedpur never gave up and Murray turned out to be the super sub, replacing Chima in the 75th minute and then turning in a dinked pass from Stewart in an acrobatic fashion with five minutes remaining on the clock.