FC Pune City huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 victory over FC Bardez to confirm their place in the semi-finals of the 1st AWES Cup, organised by Association for the Wellbeing of Elder Sportspersons and Dempo Sports Club Juniors, at Duler Football Stadium, Mapusa, on Monday.
Gani Nigam’s 20th minute header was the essential difference between the two teams. The 90-minute clash saw some end-to-end action, and even though FC Bardez’s journey ended on Monday, coach Armando Colaco should be encouraged with the team performance.
FC Bardez needed a win to qualify for the semi-finals due to their inferior goal difference. They had won their opening round clash 3-0 while Pune City defeated Dempo Juniors 5-0. Bardez started positively and had only themselves to blame for not surging ahead.
Early in the game, a shot from Floyd Fernandes hit the post and sailed wide after being provided a good pass by Caitano Viegas.
Jessel Carneiro then created panic in the FC Pune City danger zone with a left-footed curling free-kick and Shubham Dessai was a bit slow to react to the opportunity.
Another cross from Shubham from the right saw Jessel with a wonderful opportunity but the Bardez captain couldn’t keep his header on target.
FC Pune City celebrated their escape with a goal of their own, one that stifled Bardez. In the 22nd minute, Nigam made a daunting run and jumped highest between Lalbabu Mahto and Krishnanath Shirodkar to head in a pin point cross by Ashique Kurniyan.
FC Pune City had a chance to increase their lead towards the closing stages of the first half but goalkeeper Aliston Fernandes did well to keep away an attempt from Rahul Yadav from handshaking distance.
Nigam was dangerous in the second session as well and should have scored his second goal. He found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper but his attempt from close range missed the target by a whisker.
Just like Nigam, who was sent off for a second bookable offence in the dying minutes of the match, Pawan Kumar was also unlucky as his header from a corner-kick hit the post and sailed out of play.
FC Pune City will now meet Dempo Sports Club in the first semifinal on Thursday.
Today’s Chief Guests were Dr. Damodar Bhonsulo and Mr. Redento De Sousa.