ISL: NorthEast downs Pune to end winless run

NorthEast United FC tallied 14 points from 11 matches to move into sixth position ahead of Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa while Pune City remained in the fourth spot with 15 from 12 matches.

NorthEast United FC midfielder Romaric celebrates after scoring the winning goal.   -  SPORTZPICS

NorthEast United FC ended its winless run just when its ISL dream appeared to be over as the home favourite downed a resurgent FC Pune City by a late second half goal, here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Tuesday. Ivory Coast midfielder Romaric found the net decisively in the 81st minute to fetch the full quota of points to The Highlanders, which had remained winless in the last six matches.

The win, which was the third at home and fourth overall, kept alive the semifinal dreams of NEUFC. The host tallied 14 points from 11 matches to move into the sixth position ahead of Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa. Pune City remained in the fourth spot with 15 from 12 matches.

Four bookings in the last three minutes of the action added some tempo to an otherwise staid opening half, which saw the host maintaining a greater control over the ball. Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro had the first look at the Pune goal from a set-piece situation in the 11th minute but his curling free-kick deflected off a defender to find the side netting.

Two minute later Pune made a fine incursion off a counter attack but Senegalese midfielder Momar Ndoye made the mistake of going too deep and finding the NEUFC goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

The foursome in the Highlanders’ attack – Alfaro, Argentine Nico Velez, Romaric and Japanese Katsumi Yusa – showed a fine passing accuracy that gave the host a greater share in the attack. But the goal remained elusive as the both Alfaro and Velez, the two strikers, ran out of ideas in the box where the Pune City stopper backs, Brazilian Eduardo and former Indian international Gourmangi Singh, kept a tight vigil.

As the first half neared towards its conclusion ruffled tempers gained prominence first involving Romaric and the Pune coach Antonio Habas and couple of minutes later Alfaro got involved with the Pune captain Mohamed Sissoko, seeing four bookings from referee Nick Waldron in the process.

The second session saw Yusa getting two early opportunities. The first one in the 58th minute saw him failing to clear the Pune defender Narayan Das while in the second, Pune goalkeeper Edel Bete saved the former’s attempt in the 65th minute.

Pune had two fine chances thereafter but was unlucky not getting the break. Lenny Rodrigues, who turned up as a defensive midfielder for Pune, had beaten Subrata Paul with a rasping long ranger in the 70th minute but the upright prevented the ball from going home. Next Paul made a brilliant point-blank save in the 77th minute on a smashing effort from the Pune substitute Gustavo Oberman to keep the host’s slate clean.

Finally, a free-kick awarded just outside the Pune City box broke the deadlock as Romaric curled the ball to the far end of the goal with a fine effort to get the host back in the contention.

NorthEast now plays Chennaiyin FC travelling to the latter’s home while Pune City travels further south to meet Kerala Blasters in the next round.

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