NorthEast United FC breathed new life into their dying Hero Indian Super League campaign with a dramatic 1-0 victory over FC Pune City at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Tuesday.
NorthEast United had gone six matches without a win, losing four of them. With just two points from their last six matches, they were on the verge of exit until Ivory Coast midfielder Romaric scored from a stunning free-kick in the 81st minute to leave FC Pune City’s campaign in tatters.
The victory helped NorthEast United accumulate 14 points from 11 matches and move to the sixth spot. With three matches still left to be played and the jinx finally broken, coach Nelo Vingada will feel more confident. Pune City on the other hand have 15 points from 12 matches and will have to win their next two games to be assured of a place in the play-offs.
The NorthEast-Pune battle was a cagey affair particularly in the first session when neither team enjoyed clear cut chances. Momar Ndoye was the only player who provided some entertainment when he danced his way on the left
but could not beat goalkeeper Subrata Paul from a narrow angle. Midfielder Jonatan Lucca also missed a good chance from just outside the box when the ball fell for
him nicely but he could only shoot waywardly with his left-foot.
For NorthEast United, there was hardly any chance of note with Katsumi Yusa’s attempt on goal, which was the only shot on target, saved by goalkeeper Edel Bete without much difficulty.
In the second session, FC Pune City came out all guns blazing and were unlucky not to take the lead. In the 69th minute, Lenny Rodrigues shot a screamer from 35 yards out, even beating goalkeeper Paul, but the crossbar stood in the way. Spanish midfielder Pitu then tried his luck after Izumi Arata had chested the ball down for him inside the danger zone but goalkeeper Paul measured up to the challenge with a stunning one-handed reflex save.
NorthEast United got the match winner out of nowhere in the 81st minute. The hosts won a free-kick just outside the box and Romaric stepped up to take it. The Ivory Cost midfielder used his left foot to devastating effect as his curling free-kick found the top corner of the net, past a diving Edel Bete.