Punjab FC secured their fourth win in their last six matches of the Indian Super League as they defeated NorthEast United FC 1-0 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Thursday.

A 63rd minute spot-kick by former Highlander Wilmar Jordan Gil ensured that the league debutants moved to 20 points from 18 matches, placing themselves in the ninth spot in the standings.

A prospective win here would have taken NorthEast United FC into the top-six, but the result has hurt their run in the race for the playoff spots.

The win puts Punjab right in the race for the final play-off spot which is currently occupied by Bengaluru FC who have 21 points. Jamshedpur FC, NorthEast United and Punjab are seventh, eighth, and ninth in the standings respectively with 20 points each from 18 matches.

It is safe to say that it was a battle of equals between the two sides. The Highlanders attempted nine shots as compared to the eight of Punjab FC, but the latter had directed three of them on target as compared to the two of the former.

The visitors set the tone from the beginning, with Slovenian striker Luka Majcen receiving a slick pass by Ricky Shabong and shooting it just a tad bit off target from the centre of the box in the third minute of the contest.

Jithin MS and Parthib Gogoi were the standout strikers for the home team. Jithin picked his teammates in promising goal-scoring positions whereas the latter missed bagging his fifth goal of the season by a slender margin after shooting from inside of the box in the 25th minute straight to Ravi Kumar.

Jithin had a chance coming his way, courtesy of Macarton Nickson in the 37th minute. But instead of charging into the box, he tested his luck from the outside and squandered the chance against a Punjab FC defence that was all over the place.

To his credit, Gil remained patient in this regard whilst earning the penalty that he converted later on. His kick from the right side of the box hit Tondonba Singh’s hand. It was a straightforward penalty that Gil converted without breaking a sweat, earning his team a narrow but crucial victory to fuel their playoff aspirations.

Nestor had many chances to draw his side level in the second half but could not apply the finishing touch. He had a golden opportunity to score in the 79th minute after having beaten Ravi Kumar to a through ball. Though he rounded the Punjab keeper, Nestor’s shot was parried off the line by a superb diving block by Dimitris Chatziisaias.

That was the closest NorthEast United came to scoring on the night as Punjab clinched three crucial points.