NorthEast United FC conquered FC Pune City in a must-win match with a 3-2 win over the westerners.
But at the same time, the Highlanders’ road to semifinals need one last contribution from the Pune outfit. They got knocked out at Guwahati but FC Pune City will have to beat Chennaiyin FC to see NorthEast United through to the play offs.
NorthEast United Score Three In First Half:
In a fast-paced clash for a place in the semifinals, NorthEast United did well to hammer three past FC Pune City in the first half with goals from Nicolas Velez (4th minute), Diomansy Kamara (18th minute) and Andre Bikey (43rd minute). FC Pune City had briefly fought their way back into this game with a goal from James Bailey (8th minute) to tie the match at 1-1 but then surrendered ground to the hosts.
Adrian Mutu pulled another goal back for Pune City with four minutes left on the clock but that was too little too late as the visitors could not come back. With this defeat, they crashed out of the race for play offs.
The victory took NorthEast United to a temporary top four place with 20 points. They have now completed their league round fixtures and will only qualify if FC Pune City defeat Chennaiyin FC in their concluding league clash. Chennaiyin FC are placed fifth with 19 points and will qualify with a draw against Pune City, thanks to their superior goal average of plus nine.
NorthEast United started the match in roaring fashion with Velez giving his team the lead in the fourth minute. It all started from NorthEast United’s own half with Didier Zokora losing the ball to Bruno Arias. The midfielder ran quite some distance with the ball and found Mendy, whose first touch was disappointing, but still managed to pull the ball back for Velez who did the rest despite having three defenders ahead of him.
FC Pune City fought their way back just four minutes later. Jackichand Singh played the ball for Didier Zokora just outside the box and the highest capped player for Ivory Coast relayed the ball for Bailey, who did well to curl it past NorthEast goalkeeper TP Rehenesh.
NorthEast United regained their lead in the 18th minute from a quick counter-attack. Mendy found Velez who crossed across the face of goal where Kamara found space and time at the far post to tap the ball into an empty net.
It seemed to be curtains for Pune in the 43rd minute when Bikey jumped high enough to head home a free-kick from Bruno with goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya completely missing the ball.
In the second session, FC Pune City stepped up their attack and pressed more men forward but the visitors had nothing to show apart from a trademark Adrian Mutu free-kick in the 86th minute. The goal did not make much of a difference as NorthEast United defended their lead to stay alive in the league.
FC Pune City, who led the ISL table at the start, ended their league engagements without a single away win. It was a disappointing campaign for the team which boasted of highly rated marquee players. Coach David Platt would be at a loss for he had found a stronghold initially. Once table toppers went back empty handed from the second edition of the Indian Super League.