NorthEast's first play-offs
This season, NorthEast United FC made it to the semi-finals of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) for the first time. And even though it's striker Bartholomew Ogbeche who has hogged the limelight, he could have been pegged back, if Federico Gallego was not by his side.
"I'm happy as long as he (Bartholomew Ogbeche) scores. If you compare our team with other teams, we depend on only Bartholomew (Ogbeche) and Federico (Gallego), so I give myself a lot of credit for that," Eelco Schattorie said earlier this season.
Big expectations from the lethal duo
Ogbeche and Gallego have been exceptional throughout the season and more of the same will be expected from them going into the big games.
Former PSG and Real Valladolid striker Ogbeche joined NorthEast United this season and slotted seamlessly into the attack. He led the line brilliantly and has 12 goals in 17 matches, only Ferran Corominas (15) has more.
He has taken the most number of shots this season (4.24/game) and has 1.53 shots on target per game, only second to Corominas. It's an impressive return for a player's debut season in India.
Ogbeche – The danger man
Opposition teams would often find Ogbeche as the danger man in the NorthEast team and they have almost always been right. He can hold the ball up, run in behind, be a poacher and also shoot from a distance and it all comes naturally for the Nigerian. After playing for different teams with different styles and in various conditions, Indian football has been a cakewalk for the forward.
The individual brilliance of Ogbeche was not enough to cover for the lack of squad depth at NorthEast United. The club needed a partnership up front and within the first few matches, the potential of Gallego was there for all to see. He tormented defenses with his intelligent passing and movement and suddenly, opponents found it hard to just focus on Ogbeche as a means of shutting NorthEast United down.
Schattorie will bank on the Gallego-Ogbeche partnership
Gallego has scored four goals and has five assists so far. The duo has contributed a total of 22 goals and assists in the Highlanders' historic march into the playoffs. Of the 22 goals NorthEast has scored this season, the attacking partnership has been responsible for 16.
Eelco Schattorie's men will take on Bengaluru FC at their home ground for the first leg of their playoffs on March 7. The season has been a rollercoaster ride for NorthEast United but against the most consistent team in ISL in the last two seasons, the head coach will once again be banking on the Gallego-Ogbeche partnership to continue making an impact.