FC Pune City scrape past NorthEast United to go top

FC Pune City produced another gritty performance as they overcame NorthEast United 1-0 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium to go to the top of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) table. It was another game where FC Pune City found their way to three points despite not being at their very best.

Both the managers rung in the changes with Cesar Farias making five changes to the side that went down against the Kerala Blasters. Gennaro Bracigliano, Sanju Pradhan, Francis Dadzie, Zogmingliana Ralte and Raju Yumnam all came into the starting eleven for the Highlanders.

David Platt chose to rest his hero from the game against Mumbai City FC, Tuncay Sanli and gave a start to Adrian Mutu.

The changed system seemed to work well right from the outset for the visitors as Nicolas Velez’s brilliant work in the 2nd minute, allowed him space to shoot. His shot took a wicked deflection, but sailed wide as wrong-footed FC Pune City goalkeeper heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Six minutes later, it was his opposite number Bracigliano who had to be alert as he made two crucial saves in the space of two minutes, with the latter coming from Adrian Mutu’s half volley.

But it was the visitors who were running the show a bit and Velez once again made space on the right side although a bit fortuitously but sent in drilled cros across the face of the goal which went begging as there was no body who could match up with Velez’s pace.

NorthEast almost committed suicide in the 28th minute. after Cedric Hengbart misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Adrian Mutu to set up Fanai Lalrempuia whose effort was palmed away by the goalkeeper but only for it to fall to Israil Gurung whose effort was blocked away by Cedrid Hengbart who made up for his earlier error.

Three minutes later, Lenny Rodrigues was guilty after he allowed Diamansy Kamara to dig the ball out from the byline and cut it back into the danger area. Fortunately for Rodrigues he was bailed out by Ravanan who made a crucial intervention and cleared it for a corner.

NorthEast United almost grabbed the lead from the resultant corner which was cleared half-heartedly by the FC Pune City defence. The loose ball was smashed goalwards by Reegan Singh, but Simonsen saved heroically and stopped the shot from ruffling the top corner.

The half ended goalless with both teams having their share of chances mostly from mistakes by their opponents, but neither team could quite capitalize on the errors to make a mark on the scoreline.

NorthEast had the best chance of the second half when Velez latched onto an over the top pass and attracted goalkeeper Simonsen towards him and away from his goal. Having had his angle closed by the onrushing Simonsen, Velez decided to pass it back to Kamara who virtually had an open goal to aim at, but the former Fulham man took too much time to get his shot away allowing the FC Pune City defenders to get in the way and clear the danger.

NorthEast United were eventually made to pay for their missed chances, when Ralte headed home a Lalrempuia corner in the 73rd minute to give FC Pune City a decisive lead.

NorthEast reacted well to going behind and almost instantly got back on level terms when Velez was picked out by a pass in space, but goalkeeper Simonsen did well to narrow his angle down, resulting in the Argentine to fire into the side netting.

FC Pune City did well to protect the lead as they sat back and congested the midfield area. NorthEast United struggled to find ways past the FC Pune City backline as the Punekars held on for the victory and moved to the top of the league.

David Platt didn’t seem particularly impressed by his side’s performance, but deep down he would understand the importance of these two wins. FC Pune City didn’t do great, but did enough once again and that’s a good quality to have if one is looking to win the league. There will be better days, bigger performances from David Platt’s men, but will be results like these which will make the difference in the end for FC Pune City

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