FULL-TIME: Northeast United FC 1-1 FC Pune City
Northeast United: 47′ Rowllin Borges; 89′ Jose Leudo (RED CARD).
FC Pune City: 69′ Adil Khan (Assist: Diego Carlos).
FC Pune City put up a battling performance to draw against Northeast United and deny them safe passage into the play-offs.
Pune City were without their standout player of the season Marcelinho who was serving a suspension for picking up four yellow cards. The Brazilian has scored six, assisted four goals and is one of the top chance creators (xG) in the league. Jonathan Vila filled in for him tonight and was nowhere as effective.
The first half saw the teams play well within themselves and not commit too much in attack. However, both the sides were guilty of losing possession often. Both teams had half chances – Pune City playing two forwards upfront in Iain Hume and Robin Singh threatened from crosses; Northeast United created a few openings, but the quality of the final ball and their finishing was lacking as the teams went into the break goalless.
The second half saw NEUFC keep possession better than they did in the first and they scored almost immediately. Rowllin Borges pounced on a loose ball after the Pune keeper spilled a pass which came through midfield. The ball fell directly into the path of the Goan midfielder who slotted it in.
Down a goal, Pune tried to claw back into the game. They used long balls and width on the pitch to good effect and fought for every loose ball. Eventually, their persistence paid off. A Diego Carlos cross from the left flank was met by an Adil Khan who made a run into the box from midfield. The midfielder scored with a fantastic volley straight through Pawan Kumar’s hands and the teams were level.
Needing a win to qualify, Northeast United made a few attacking substitutions in Juan Cruz Mascia and bringing on the new signing, six-foot-six defender Janeiler Rivas. They tried to force a win and were more direct in their football, but Pune were resilient and did not concede ground.
Pune City had a couple of chances late in the game – Iain Hume got closest after his shot hit the underside of the bar, but the ball bounced back out. Neither team could force the advantage as the match ended in a draw.
The draw means Pune City are out of the reckoning for the play-offs mathematically, although with the start to the season they had, it always looked a long shot.
NEUFC’s Jose Leudo was sent off late in the game in the 89th minute for an elbow on Diego Carlos. Alongside Leudo, the Highlanders will be without the services of defender Mato Grgic as well for the next game – Grgic picked up his fourth yellow card tonight and will have to serve a one-match suspension.
Northeast United still have their destiny in their own hands to clinch the play-off spot – Win against Kerala in Kochi in their last league fixture of the season and they are through. However, if they lose or draw they will have to hope either Mumbai City FC or Jamshedpur FC slip up to send them through.