NorthEast United FC returned to the top of the Indian Super League table with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over FC Pune City at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium on Wednesday.
In a match that saw fortunes fluctuating and both teams being reduced to 10 men, NorthEast United scored the winner 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, 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.
The Guwahati-based side’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, however, could not give the finishing touches from inside the box.
The match turned on its head in the 36th minute when NorthEast United defender Nirmal Chhetri was shown a straight red card for a desperate 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, having the numerical advantage in the second session, 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 Pune City’s Eduardo Ferreira was adjudged to have fouled Romaric and the referee sent him off as it was his second booking of the match.
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.