NorthEast United FC breathed life into their dying Indian Super League campaign with a 1-0 win over FC Pune City here on Tuesday.
NorthEast United FC had gone six matches without a win, losing four of them. With just two points from those matches, they were on the verge of exit until Ivory Coast midfielder Romaric converted a stunning free-kick in the 81st minute to leave FC Pune City’s campaign in tatters.
The victory lifted NorthEast to sixth in the eight-team table with 14 points from 11 matches. With three matches left, coach Nelo Vingada will feel more confident about chasing a playoff berth. The loss left Pune City tied on 15 points from 12 matches with Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters, but fifth due to their goal difference of - 2. They have to win their next two games to be assured of a playoff berth.
The match was a cautious affair, particularly in the first session when neither team created clear cut chances. Pune’s Momar Ndoye danced his way on the left but could not beat goalkeeper Subrata Paul from a narrow angle. Pune midfielder Jonatan Lucca also missed a good chance from just outside the box after the ball fell kindly for him, but he shot waywardly with his left foot.
For NorthEast, there was hardly any chance of note with Katsumi Yusa’s attempt on goal saved by goalkeeper Edel Bete without much difficulty.
In the second session, Pune came out all guns blazing and were unlucky not to take the lead. In the 69th minute, Lenny Rodrigues shot from 35 yards to beat goalkeeper Paul, but it struck the crossbar.
Spanish midfielder Pitu then produced a shot after Izumi Arata had chested the ball down for him in the box, but goalkeeper Paul pulled off a stunning, one-handed reflex save.
NorthEast United got the winner out of nowhere in the 81st minute. They won a free-kick just outside the box and Romaric’s curling effort beat a diving Edel Bete and found the top corner of the net.