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ISL: Marcelinho puts Pune City on the brink of play-off qualification
 
(MUMBAI, feb 11, 2018):A fortuitous Diego Carlos goal followed by Marcelinho's fine finish late in the second half saw Pune City grab a 2-0 win in the Maharashtra Derby and take a crucial step towards qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time in the ISL's brief history.

For Mumbai City, it would prove to be another frustrating evening as they crashed to their fourth straight loss at the Mumbai Football Arena and are now all but mathematically eliminated from the race to a playoff spot.

Asked what was the reason behind their horror home run on match eve, Mumbai City coach Alexandre Guimaraes had said his side's failure at converting chances had "hurt" them dearly. The Costa Rican was left nursing similar sentiments on Sunday as he watched an unmarked Gerson Vieira fail to turn in an Emana free kick, Balwant Singh head over and Thiago Dos Santos somehow shoot wide just inches from goal.

Pune City were handed a boost in the form of head coach Ranko Popovic returning to take his place on the touchline after the Serbian tactician had watched his side seal a 1-0 win at NorthEast United in their last fixture from the stands. That was not the only change on the pitch for the visitors as Popovic surprisingly left star striker Emiliano Alfaro on the bench.

With captain Lucian Goian still unavailable through injury, Guimaraes, aware his side were in greater need of the three points, chose to field a back three. The ploy saw the hosts come under pressure on the counter in the early stages of the match with the dangerous Marcelinho launching three attempts at goal.

The Stallions were certainly enjoying a bright spell even if it needed a stroke of fortune for them to collect their reward in the 18th minute. Full back Sarthak Goloui whipped in a cross from the right that initially seemed to have missed the head of Pune City midfielder Diego Carlos before it struck the leg of a hapless Raju Gaikwad and rolled into the goal. Carlos was later credited with the goal having apparently managed to get the faintest of touches on to the ball before Gaikwad inadvertently did the rest.

Thereafter, Mumbai City, began to find their rhythm with Emana and the impressive Dos Santos at the heart of most of The Islanders' promising moves on the night. The second half, in particular, saw Mumbai City come close to drawing level as a deflected Balwant strike forced a low diving save out of Pune City goalkeeper Vishal Kaith before Dos Santos' agonising miss drew a wry smile from Guimaraes.

When Pune City substitute Jonathan Lucca played the ball across to an unmarked Marcelinho who poked it into the bottom left corner for his eight goal of the season in the 83rd minute, Guimaraes could only beat a retreat to his bench.

The win took Pune City's tally to 28 points from 15 matches as Popovic's men moved three points clear of third placed Jamshedpur.


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