Zohmingliana Ralte’s unfortunate own goal clinched the Indian Super League match 1-0 for FC Pune City against North East United Football Club (NEUFC) at the Shiv Chhatrapathi Sports Complex here on Friday. Ralte’s header, trying to defend a corner, in the 73rd minute gave no chance to the French goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano. The 28-year-old Aizwal born Ralte was one among the five changes coach Cesar Farias made to the starting line up following the Guwahati-based side’s 1-3 thrashing by Kerala Balsters at Kochi. There was hardly any scene of celebration on the home team bench; coach David Platt knew his team was lucky. The home team has six points from two games and is at the top of the table.

A few minutes before the visitor actually helped the home team take the lead, the star of the first match, Turkey’s Tuncay Sanli, claimed a goal, without realising that the linesman had raised the flag ruling him off-side. Sanli appeared to be off-side by three metres at least. Sanli’s entry into the field in the field, replacing Adrian Mutu immediately after the first hour, made the 8,000 plus spectators roar.

A cautious approach of the two teams initially was obvious, but glimpses of creativity were evident when the likes of Romanian Mutu and Argentine Nicolas Velez had the ball at the mercy of their feet, but two exceptional players do not necessarily contribute meaningfully to an outcome of match. NEUFC, looking to salvage some pride and even a point, looked up to the Argentine, who scored the odd goal against Kerala Blasters, to find the target while the local team appeared to become increasingly depended on Mutu.

The home team tried to control proceedings after Velez made a real opportunity in the second minute; he and Frenchman Diomansy Kamara forced their way in the right and left wings respectively, but defenders Roger Johnson and Nicolas Shorey were more than equal to the task. Suffering a cut on his lower jaw, Velez played the rest of the match with his face bandaged. He looked a classy player, but clearly it was not his evening when the coach removed T.P. Rehenesh from under the bar and also brought in Raju Yumnam, Sanju Pradhan and Ralte for Bruno Arias, Seityasen Singh and Boithang Haokip. The injured Miguel Garcia was not in the team sheet.

The visitors put up an improved display coming off a big defeat. Velez in particular and Ghana’s Francis Dadze were in the picture, and so were Kamara and Cedric Hengbart, who was in defence. Platt had indicated resting Sanli on Thursday, but he was on the bench. The Sanli-Israil Gurung combination worked wonders against Mumbai but with Sanli’s absence for 60 minutes, the home team perhaps lacked the punch upfront.