Guwahati: NorthEast United displayed an exceptional performance to thrash Pune City 3-2 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium here on Wednesday to keep their semifinal hopes alive in the second season of the Indian Super League (ISL).
Goals from Nicolas Velez (4th minute), Diomansy Kamara (18th) and Andre Bikey (43th) ensured the hosts got full points from the match, while goals from James Bailey (8th) and Adrian Mutu (86th) were not enough for the visitors to earn a point.
With this win, in what was their final league match of the season, the hosts jump to fourth spot in the table with 20 points from 14 games, having won six, lost six and drawn two.
But NorthEast will now have to hope that Pune City win their final game against Chennaiyin FC on December 5 for them to make it to the play-offs.
If Chennaiyin (currently 19 points from 13 games) win or even get a draw, they will go through.
On the other hand, Pune's hope of making it to the semis was shattered tonight. They are currently in sixth spot with four wins, three draw and six losses.
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 Zokoro losing the ball to Bruno Arias. The midfielder ran quite some distance with the ball and found Victor 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.
Pune City fought their way back just four minutes later.
Jackichand Singh played the ball for Zokoro 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 T.P. Rehenesh.
NorthEast 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 City in the 43rd minute when Bikey jumped high enough to head home a free-kick from Bruno with Pune goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya completely missing the ball.
In the second half, 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 defended their lead to stay alive in the league.
(with agency inputs)