Pune: Coach Ranko Popovic’s absence on the sidelines mattered little as FC Pune City, riding on a wonderful hat-trick from captain Marcelinho, drubbed NorthEast United 5-0 at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium here on Saturday.
Talks of Pune failing to replicate their away performance at home had been doing the rounds, but Marcelinho’s leadership combined with his three goals after Ashique Kuruniyan had given them the lead just proved why the ‘Stallions’ may be the team to beat this season.
With 15 points from eight matches Pune moved to the second position just behind FC Goa, a side they beat six nights ago. Starting from where they had let off the ‘Stallions’ sans Popovic went ahead as soon as the eight minute.
Counter-attacks had been Pune’s master tactic to brush aside the likes of ATK and FC Goa and it was the same move that fetched them their first goal against the ‘Highlanders.’
Jonatan Lucca’s run with the ball after Marcinho had come close to scoring for NorthEast United only for Pune custodian Vishal Keith to parry it way for a corner saw Alfaro’s shot put into the goal by Kuruniyan on the rebound.
Aggravating the blow for NorthEast, Lalrindika Ralte soon had to be replaced by Seiminlen Doungel inside the opening 25 minutes and two minutes later Marcelinho added to it with a wonderful free-kick goal that left TP Rehenesh in the post stunned, for his first of the night.
The Brazilian who looked the most likely to score everytime he moved forward with the ball soon added a third for Pune just at the brink of half-time as custodian Rehenesh let one slip in-between his legs in a comical fashion.
3-0 down at half-time was not as astonishing as Pune’s rate of conversion that said 100%, with three shots on target producing three goals. NorthEast United also had three in the first 45 minutes but could not find the net and that is what mattered in the end.
The ‘Highlanders’ let off one more match without scoring a goal while Pune didn’t seem to stop on the contrary.
With the early rampage settled NorthEast slowly look to build up some pressure but Pune replied with another goal, Marcelinho’s third of the night in the 86th minute. A floated Marcos Tebar chip in the box found his former Delhi Dynamos teamamte and the little Brazilian had no qualms in putting it behind to complete an eventful night for the ‘Stallions.’
Two minutes later, defensive midfielder Adil Khan popped inside the box to head home from a goalmouth melee.
This was also the first time that Pune managed to score five goals that send them to the second position, while NorthEast continued to battle in the second-last place with just four points from seven matches.