NorthEast United edge out poor Pune to go top of the table
Emiliano Alfaro scored the game's only goal after both teams were reduced to 10 men...
NorthEast United beat FC Pune City 1-0 in an Indian Super League match played at Belwadi Stadium earlier today.
The teams went into the game with contrasting fortunes. NorthEast had lost their last game while the hosts had won crucially against FC Goa away from home.
Pune started the game with three at the back, identical to their previous game. NorthEast meanwhile, continued to start with Didier Zokora in defence in the absence of Mailson Aves.
Pune started the game the brighter side, controlling possession and creating chances, especially through the right wing. In the 5th minute, Jonatan Lucca stung the palms of NorthEast keeper Subrata Paul with a direct free-kick.
Despite the dominating start, Pune only managed the solitary shot on target in the first 15 minutes. NEUFC on the other hand, slowly grew into the game. A brilliant one-two between Nirmal Chhetri and Kathuria Yusa gave Nicolas Velez a great chance in the box, but his attempt was blocked. Halfway through the first half, the possession had evened out but Pune restored some of their early dominance, winning a corner and whipping in a couple of crosses from the right. Meanwhile, NorthEast looked to Katsumi and Velez for inspiration. Velez almost finding number 9 Emiliano Alfaro with a sumptuous cross. In the 35th minute, the Highlanders went a man down as right-back Nirmal Chettri was sent off by referee Fernando Ramirez, for a late tackle on Anibal Zurdo.
At half time, Pune City and NorthEast were level, but with The Stallions holding all the cards, and a man advantage. Before the second half, Arata Izumi came in for centre-back Gourmangi Singh, as Pune shifted to a more conventional 4-man defence. Yusa shifted to right-back for NorthEast, but only till the hour mark.
The second half started in similar fashion, with the home team maintaining possession, but NEUFC's resolute defence restricted Pune to punts from outside the box. A marauding run from N'dri had Pune fans' hearts in their mouths, but Edel saved well. For the Stallions, the substitutes Sanju Pradhan and Arata Izumi proved to be bright sparks, with the former finding the latter with a cross. The game took another sensational twist in the 71st minute, when Pune centre-back Eduardo Ferreira was also sent of for a second yellow. The merit of the yellow card leading to the red was also questionable.
Goal which made all difference
The goal finally came in the 79th minute as it was the visitors who took a crucial lead. N'Dri led a counter attack, playing Nico Velez in. The tricky winger found Katsumi in the box whose blocked attempt fell kindly to Emiliano Alfaro who tucked it in neatly beyond a helpless Edel. Pune, desperate for an equaliser went all guns blazing in the last 10 minutes. The team in orange bombarded the NorthEast goal. The visitors faced crosses, free-kicks, corners and even a late penalty appeal. The visitors could even have extended their lead with a couple of fantastic chances on the break.
Eventually, NorthEast United FC held their cool to come out 1-0 winners.
In a game full of fouls, including two red cards, this away win could be crucial for NorthEast. For now, it sees them jump back to the top of the Hero Indian Super League. Pune end up losing their second consecutive game at home.
Report by Khel Now Correspondent from Pune Miqdad Haider.
Published: 2016-10-12 16:25:32