Hernan Santana's delightful free-kick failed to hand NorthEast United FC a win as they were held to a 1-1 draw by FC Goa in the Hero Indian Super League at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Friday.
Santana curled in a superb free-kick in just the second minute of the game but Airan Cabrera's goal in the 39th minute helped Goa draw level. There were no goals in the second half, meaning Goa moved up a rung to eighth place having 13 points from 11 games while NorthEast United remained 10th with nine points from 11 games.
NorthEast United were off to a flying start courtesy of Santana's individual brilliance. The 31-year old Spaniard curled in a delectable free-kick at the near post leaving Dheeraj Moirangthem with no chance as the ball pinged in off the crossbar.
It was a frantic start to the game and just the early push NorthEast United needed. Goa tried to settle down by playing more passes in midfield but NorthEast were not ready to rest on the slender lead as Deshorn Brown missed the target after beating two defenders.
Goa relied on the excellent Jorge Ortiz to deliver the goods and the Spaniard got past Provat Lakra to send a teasing ball inside the box but Mirshad Michu was alert to avert the danger at the right time. NorthEast looked in fine touch when Brown and Suhair Vadakkepeedika combined for the latter to see his effort deflect off a few Goa shirts for a corner.
Goa slowly started growing into the game and got the equaliser moments before the halftime whistle when Cabrera nodded in a Alberto Noguera corner with no one marking him.
In the second period, Goa looked the more threatening side with Ortiz and Cabrera combining brilliantly to keep NorthEast United defence on tenterhooks. There were chances few and far between for the Highlanders but Goa could not make the most of their attacking display as they had to share the spoils in the end with their rivals.