Pune: NorthEast United FC returned to the top of the Hero Indian Super League table with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over FC Pune City at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Balewadi-Pune, on Wednesday.
In a match that saw fortunes-fluctuating and both teams reduced to 10 man, NorthEast United scored the only goal of the match through Emiliano Alfaro in the 79th minute.
The win took NorthEast United back to the top of the table with nine points from four matches, although this encounter will be better remembered for the two red cards that were issued to Nirmal Chhetri (NorthEast United) and Eduardo Ferreira (Pune City) in the 36th and 72nd minute respectively.
NorthEast United were adventurous at the start and seemed determined to make up for the loss in their last match against Mumbai City FC. Rowlin Borges and Katsumi Yusa were in fine fettle and Nicolas Velez was creating plenty of problems for Pune City defenders.
In the 13th minute itself, NorthEast United’s Romaric went close with a shot from just outside the box which missed the target after Borges and Katsumi had done the spadework. NorthEast United’s next chance came five minutes later. This time it was Katsumi who slid the ball for Emiliano Alfaro, and the Uruguayan striker did well to sell a dummy for Velez, who couldn’t give the finishing touches from inside the box.
Just at the half an hour mark, Velez turned provider for Alfaro with an excellent cross which Pune defender D Ravanan missed but Alfaro was inches away from the ball.
The match turned on its head in the 36th minute when NorthEast United defender Nirmal Chhetri was shown a straight red card for a lunge on Anibal Zurdo. The sending off pegged NorthEast United back but the visitors did well to hold fort at the change of ends despite repeated attacks from Jonatan Lucca and Mohamed Sissoko of Pune City.
Pune knew they had the numerical advantage in the second session with NorthEast United reduced to 10 man. They tried to attack in numbers but NorthEast were defending well, allowing very little space for their rivals.
The match then took another dramatic turn in the 72nd minute when the encounter saw a second red card, this time for Pune City. Eduardo Ferreira was adjudged to have fouled Romaric and the referee had no hesitation in booking the defender. It was his second booking of the match and had to be sent off.
NorthEast United were now back in control of the match and were rewarded in the 79th minute. Velez started it all with a fine run on the right and relayed the ball to Alfaro. The Uruguayan striker then passed the ball on the left to Yusa, whose shot from inside the box took a deflection and fell nicely for Alfaro again who put it across a diving Pune goalkeeper Edel Bete.
FC Pune City have three points from three matches after picking up their second loss.