NorthEast United FC ascended to the top of the ISL table after they took home maximum points against FC Pune City in a battle which could have gone either way here at the Shiv Chhatrapati sports complex on Wednesday.
For NEUFC, this was their first away win while Pune suffered their second home defeat in as many matches and remain static at fifth spot.
Though the rivals looked well balanced on all fronts, NEUFC deserved the three points for their sustained attacks and a few more raids than the hosts. Adding to the pressure, both teams lost a player each on either side of the break.
The stalemate was broken in the 79th minute when Uruguay striker Emiliano Alfaro scored the match-winner. Katsumi Yusa on the left prodded the ball in which deflected off a defender to Alfaro who did the needful much to the joy of the NEUFC fans and team co-owner John Abraham.
For NEUFC, winger Nicolas Velez and Emiliano upfront combined well creating many a move from the right flank. In the second half, Koffi Ndri made a good solo run from beyond the halfline but his attempt at goal was collected by an alert Edel Bete. In the second session too, Velez’s attempt was kept out by Bete.
NEUFC were reduced to ten men in the 36th minute when defender Nirmal Chettri warranted the red card for a vicious tackle on striker Anibal Rodriguez with open studs which connected with the Spaniard’s ankle. Referee Fernando Ramirez pulled out the red card in a flash.
FCPC too were a man less in the 71st minute. Chettri’s opposite number Eduardo Ferreira had the yellow card shown twice in the match. First he committed a foul on Emiliano Alfaro in the 15th minute and then he jostled with Romaric for the long ball which the referee thought was objectionable.
Bete kept the losing margin to the minimum thanks to a fine show under the bar.