Nelo Vingada’s men had to graft but found a way to win on the road.

It was Nelo Vingada with the smile on Wednesday evening after 90 minutes of action packed football. ‘The Professor’, who is leading a team with the lowest budget in the Indian Super League Season 3 has had a dream run so far with his team sitting on top of the table with three wins from four games.

Fresh from a defeat against Mumbai City FC in the last game, the Highlanders edged past FC Pune City in style by a 1-0 victory on Wednesday. In spite of going down to 10 men on 35 minutes, Vingada’s side showed killer instinct coupled with his tactical brilliance. In his own words, “With money you can buy better things but with money you don’t make the best decisions.”

The Highlanders started with Vingada’s trademark 4-2-3-1 formation last night, with Emiliano Alfaro upfront, Nicolas Velez on the left flank and Didier Zokora taking charge of central midfield.

After some dominance showed by the Pune outfit in the first half hour of the match, NEUFC shifted into top gear, but their progress was halted in the 35th minute when Nirmal Chettri was shown a straight red card for a two-footed tackle on Anibal Rodriguez.

A man down and facing the heroics of Edel Bete in the Pune goal, the Zokora led team was then compelled to shift to a 5-3-1 which was flexible enough to transform into 4-4-1 as and when needed.

Playing their fourth game two weeks, a marginal defeat five nights ago against Mumbai and down to 10 men, NorthEast United FC could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel but thanks to the attitude of the players the team pulled rank attacking whenever and from wherever possible. On the other hand FC Pune City despite having better possession throughout the match failed to create many chances and lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.

Velez, Katsumi Yusa, Zokora, Rowlin Borges, have all started the season in fine form. Velez who initially started on the left then shifted flanks running like a bull inside the opposition box. Katsumi with his extraordinary pace and superb dribbling skills created havoc in midfield. While Alfaro was always sniffing for chances, Borges marked the dangerous Mohamed Sissoko neutralizing quite a few lethal attacks that FCPC’s new marquee signing was trying to instigate. Subrata Paul brought all his experience into play as he came out to claim the ball at every opportunity and produced quality saves on several occasions in what was a thoroughly commanding performance.

But, the man to watch in the game was undoubtedly NEUFC’s Zokora, who was formidable at the back taking care of the Highlanders defense. The former Pune man initially started in the middle of the park but dropped deeper after the sending off.

NorthEast United are back to winnings ways after showing great character to fight with 10 men. They looked comfortable at the back even after going a man down and always posed a threat on the counter-attack. The Highlanders will take a lot of confidence after a performance that showcased different attributes to the squad. They have shown that to go with the football skills they also have the mental qualities to be one of the teams to beat this season in the ISL.