Pune FC’s campaign in the 126th Durand Cup ended after a 1-2 defeat to ONGC FC in their final group game at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Friday.
Despite putting on a valiant effort throughout both games, Pune FC finished the quarterfinal group stage in the third place behind ONGC and Army Red in Group-IV.
All three goals were scored in a space of four minutes midway through the second half. Striker Ezeh Henry’s quickfire double (61st & 63rd minute) gave ONGC the lead before an own goal by Adeola Md. Hassan (64th) cut down the deficit.
Pune FC made three changes to the team that faced Army Red on Monday. Striker Prakash Thorat, defender Kaushal Singh and goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly made way for Sumit Kumar Dubey, Altamash Sayed and Avilash Paul.
In the opening exchanges, it was Pune FC who saw most of the ball, as they played a high pressing game. Kiran C and Altamash both saw their long-range attempts go wide in the first 10 minutes, while left-back Gobin Singh had a go at the goal himself in the 12th minute, only to see the ball go over the bar.
As the game progressed, ONGC started settling down, but the oilmen failed to trouble the Caitano Costa-led defence, as the Pune FC backline held firm.
At the other end, midfielder Altamash, who was involved in many Pune FC attacks, tried to break the deadlock with a left-footed attempt in the 18th minute, but the shot went agonizingly wide.
Two minutes after the half-hour mark, Gobin made a delightful overlapping run from the left flank and crossed into the box. However, Altamash on the run, failed to connect properly, and the ONGC defence safely cleared the ball away from danger.
Seven minutes later, Adeola brought down Pune FC striker Vikas Zanje outside the box, but the resultant freekick from Henry Monsang failed to get past the ONGC wall.
A minute before halftime, Pune FC goalkeeper Avilash was called into action for the first time in the game, as ONGC forward Henry connected a cross from the right flank. The young goalkeeper, however, brilliantly caught hold of the incoming header to keep the score unchanged as both teams went into the break.
Pune FC continued their forward surge as play resumed. Ten minutes into the second half, Vikas was brought down by Adeola for a second time just outside the box. This time Adeola was booked, but Costa’s curling freekick went inches high.
Minutes after the hour mark, ONGC scored two goals in succession, courtesy of a Henry double, to give ONGC an unlikely lead.
For the first goal, the ONGC forward was fouled inside the penalty area by Dubey, and Ezeh made no mistake in disposing off the penalty.
As Pune FC tried to recover from the blow, Henry doubled his team’s lead following a swift counter attack from the right.
At the other end, Pune FC pulled one goal back almost instantly. Rushab Dhere, who was having a good game, made a run into the ONGC area, and his cross into the goalmouth was inadvertently turned in by ONGC defender Adeola, to reduce the score to 2-1.
Pune FC went forward in search of an equalizer and two minutes later had Monsang’s shot from long range go just over the horizontal.
With the score at 2-1 in their favour, ONGC held on to the ball in the next few minutes. The young Pune FC brigade was able to create better chances as the ONGC defence sat tight at the back.
It wasn’t until the 87th minute that Pune FC came close. Substitute Diganta Khaddar on for Manimaran R, let fly from distance after making a good run from the right flank. His shot, however, went wide by a few inches.
ONGC held on for the next few minutes, and the game ended 2-1 in their favour.
(Pune FC Press Release)