THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Pune FC bounce back to winning ways

Pune FC

Pune FC

Pune FC bounced back to winning ways with a dominating 2-0 win over Mohammedan Sporting in an I-League Round 21 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Wednesday.

Striker Thongkhosiem Haokip (43rd minute) gave Pune FC the lead in the first half before winger Gabriel Fernandes (54th) doubled the lead after the breather.

The result completed Pune FC’s first double-win over any team in the ongoing season and also ended Pune FC’s six match winless run in all competitions since December. At home, this win was a first after four games which includes two losses and as many draws.

With this win, Pune FC (28 pts) go level on points with second placed Sporting Goa but remain third on head-to-head.

Coach Mike Snoei made one change to the starting lineup from the previous match handing a start to striker Riga Mustapha in place of medio Fanai Lalrempuia – a move which made the difference.

After playing out in the midfield for majority of the opening quarter, Pune FC finally went close in the 16th minute. Riga controlled a long ball down the left flanks before sliding it back to winger Anthony D’Souza on the run. Anthony picked up and chipped in a cross for Haokip, but his header was blocked by the defense.

The hosts then went close once again four minutes later but Riga failed to capitalise inside the box after Anthony had set him up. At the other end, playmaker Penn Orji set on a counter only for his powerful low grounder to be saved by Pune FC ‘keeper Amrinder Singh.

Pune FC, finally, took the lead two minutes from the half-time whistle. Riga chased down a long clearance by defender Salam Ranjan Singh on the right and lobbed the ball into the box. An unmarked Haokip waiting just four yards from goal made no mistake to score his second goal in a span of two days to give the hosts lead going into halftime.

Pune FC kept on the pressure in the second half and went close couple of times after restart through Gabriel and Riga.

It only took nine minutes for the hosts to increase their lead with Riga once again creating the goal. The striker sent Anthony through down the left and he brilliantly cut back for Gabriel on the run in the middle. The winger controlled inside the box and beat the ‘keeper with a clean shot towards the second post.

Minutes later, Pune FC once again went close. Riga, playing at his best, found Haokip on the run with a perfect through ball. The striker did well to control, but his effort was saved by the diving Mohammedan custodian.

At the other end, Mohammedan was restricted to only a few counter attacks as the home defense was at their best.

Midway through the half, substitute Sandeep Sangha almost pulled one back for the visitors. His ambitious effort from 35-yards was saved by Amrinder Singh to keep Pune FC’s lead intact.

The hosts kept their cool and had several chances, but failed to increase their lead further.

In the final minute of the game, Lalrempuia went on a brilliant solo taking on three defenders. The youngster finally lost the ball in the middle, but substitute Prakash Thorat collected it and set clear on the left. However, the Pune-born striker’s brilliant attempt was saved by the keeper.