Guwahati: Marcelinho’s 86th minute goal was the difference that separated the two sides at the Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium here on Wednesday.
The 1-0 defeat of NorthEast United lifted Pune to the second place on 25 points after 14 matches, the same as Bengaluru on top. NorthEast however continued to linger at the penultimate position of the 10-men table, with 13 points from 11 games.
Following a spate of missed chances at both ends, the match seemed to be heading for a draw but Marcelinho delivered the winner when Substitute Marko Stankovic found him with a perfect-inch through ball and the Brazilian made no mistake to calmly slot it home behind a rushing TP Rehenesh.
Till Marcelinho managed to break the deadlock, NorthEast United had done well to keep a clean slate till the late stages of the match but their poor record at home came to haunt them. Strangely the ‘Highlanders’ have not managed to keep a clean sheet at home ever since the match against Jamshedpur FC, which also happed to be their opening encounter for the season.
Pune City had the best opportunity in the opening half and it was Alfaro who missed a sitter. A long ball from Marcos Tebar saw NorthEast defender Nirmal Chhetri try to head it back to his own goalkeeper but his frail touch meant the ball fell for Alfaro, who tried to chip the ball over the goalkeeper but his heavy touch took the ball over the goalpost.
NorthEast too had their chances, particularly in the second session to take points from this game. The best chance fell at the feet of Lalrindika Ralte when Seiminlen Doungel’s cross from the right was clipped by Cezario and fell nicely for Ralte but the last named disappointed with his finish as he dragged the ball across the face of goal.
Jose Goncalves also went close for the hosts when Ralte’s corner-kick saw him left unmarked but the captain’s header went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.