Pune FC were held to 1-1 draw by Sporting Clube de Goa in an I-League Round 7 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi on Saturday.
In a hard fought encounter, Pune FC took the lead through striker Thongkhosiem Haokip (54th minute) before Sporting equalised through Victorino Fernandes (66th) twelve minutes later.
The draw was Pune FC’s second in a row at home and the point earned took their tally to 12 points maintaining their second place in the table, one point behind leaders Royal Wahingdoh (13 pts). The result was also the fourth time both sides played out a draw at the Balewadi Stadium in the last five years.
Going into the game, Pune FC Head Coach Karim Bencherifa made three changes handing starts to Lalrempuia Fanai, Nikhil Kadam and Mathew Gonsalves.
The game began in an interesting fashion for Pune FC. Playmaker Ryuji Sueoka and Haokip began running down the right flank right from the second minute on, sending the Sporting defence into a tizzy. Mathew Gonsalves, in the eighth minute floated in a stunning ball for Haokip who could not direct the ball in past the sporting custodian Ravi Kumar.
Almost immediately in the 11th minute, Mauvin Borges went down outside the box at the other end and the referee awarded Sporting a free kick. The subsequent shot was saved brilliantly by Amrinder Singh.
Meanwhile, Sueoka retaliated two minutes later through a brilliant crack from the right side but the effort whizzed past the woodwork. Another effort by Sporting two minutes later saw Boima Karpeh run clear avoiding the offside trap. However he was unable to beat Amrinder, and Mathew who came running in by then cleared the ball.
Sporting immediately shifted their style of playing opting for a more physical approach. In the 27th minute Cajetan Fernandes was shown a yellow card after a careless tackle on Arata. On the other hand Arata himself earned a yellow card in the 35th minute for a rash tackle. Sporting were shown a second yellow card when Karpeh bought down Ganesh in the 41st minute.
It was Arata who had the best chance of the half for Pun FC when Lalrempuia found Nikhil Kadam on the edge of the box, who in turn passed it to Ishfaq Ahmed on the left. A floated ball in by Ishfaq found Arata at the other end who head it just wide off the near post.
The two teams went into the breather with the scoreline reading 0-0.
The second half began with Pune FC attacking in the very first minute through Nikhil who couldn’t find a clean shot in. While they continued to press on, they couldn’t find the finish.
Pune FC’s persistence finally paid off as they took the lead through Haokip in the 54th minute. A counter attack by Arata down the middle saw him pass the ball clear in to Nikhil on the left who in turn chipped it into the box over the keeper for Haokip who slotted it in at the far post. The goal was Haokip’s fifth in the I-League and tenth of the season.
There was a sense of urgency post that goal crept in for both Pune FC as well as Sporting, with both sides playing attacking end-to-end football. Pune FC’s defense thwarted numerous attacks on the goal as Sporting tried very hard through Kalu Ogba, Beevan D’Mello, and Borges to equalise.
However, in the 66th minute, a defensive lapse allowed Sporting to come back into the game. Victorino Fernandes beat the offside trap on the right to come clear and slide the ball through the legs of an advanced Amrinder.
Minutes after the equaliser, Sporting created multiple chances. First Anas Edathodika blocked Mauvin and then Amrinder denied Jovel Martins in the 70th minute. Amrinder made another brilliant save four minutes later when a shot from Victorino was deflected on the post. It rebounded for Kalu whose shot too was saved by him.
Thereafter both the teams traded shots at respective goals. Sueoka almost came close to restoring the lead in the 78th minute but the quick shot taken from the corner was saved by keeper Pawan Kumar.
A minute into injury time, a harsh tackle from the Sporting custodian on Sueoka in the box had the fans screaming for a penalty but the referee deemed it otherwise.
Pune FC went close once again in the 94th minute. Mathew who ran clear on the right cut back for Anthony whose shot from the edge of the box went just wide as the game ended 1-1.
The game ended with Pune FC moving to the second spot in the league and maintaining their unbeaten run at home.