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Pune FC bows out of the 2014 AFC Cup with a 3-3 draw

AFC Cup: Pune FC v Nay Pyi Taw FC

AFC Cup: Pune FC v Nay Pyi Taw FC

Pune FC were unlucky not to get all three points as they played out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Nay Pyi Taw FC in an AFC Cup Group H Round 5 encounter at the Paung Laung Stadium in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on Tuesday.

Substitute striker Thongkhoseim Haokip (36th minute) put Pune FC ahead in the first half before striker Aung Naing (42nd) equalised for the hosts three minutes before the break.

Pune FC once again took the lead in the second half through medio Arata Izumi (55th) before strikes from Nyien Tazar Win (62nd) and substitute Khaing Htoo (72nd) put Nay Pyi Taw in the lead. However, defender Calum Angus struck in the 80th minute to pull Pune FC level.

Despite creating the maximum close chances in the game, Pune FC fell short of attaining their first-ever win on the continental stage and their misery was further compounded with skipper Douhou Pierre missing a penalty early on in the second half.

Moreover, Pune FC’s third draw in the group-stage saw them stay fourth in the table with 3 points and virtually ended their hopes of progression to the next round.

Coach Mike Snoei made five changes to the lineup handing starts to Arup Debnath, Gurjinder Kumar, Arata Izumi, Prakash Thorat and Mirjan Pavlovic.

In scorching hot conditions, it was Nay Pyi Taw who took the initiative in the opening exchanges with Pune FC defending deep before finally settling down.

While settling into the game, Pune FC received a blow in the tenth minute when striker Pavlovic limped off after defender Obadin Gabriel’s heavy tackle on him and was replaced by Haokip.

As the hosts pushed up and started creating chances, Pune FC had custodian Arup to thank as he pulled of a string of saves. First he acrobatically tipped over striker Carlos Delgado’s shot from the left and then denied Zaw Lin from close range.

After half chances at either end, Pune FC finally took the lead in the 36th minute. With the NPT goalkeeper Vanlal Hruai failing to clear a long diagonal ball into the box, Haokip capitalised and headed into an empty net for his first goal on the continental stage.

Six minutes later, a minor error cost Pune FC as the hosts equalised. After Arata lost the ball in the midfield, Michele Di Piedi quickly switched play to the right where Aung ran into space and scored at the far post to pull the hosts level going into the breather.

The second half was a different story as Pune FC began dominating proceedings. However, in the initial exchanges, the hosts had striker Michele Di Piedi go close twice but was denied by Arup on both occasions.

Six minutes after restart, Pune FC had a glorious opportunity to take the lead as winger Gabriel Fernandes earned a penalty. However, skipper Douhou Pierre failed to capitalised and saw his spot kick being saved by the ‘keeper.

Nonetheless, Pune FC took the lead three minutes later. Substitute Nicolau Borges – on for Anthony D’Souza – did well to find Gurjinder who moved in from the left and played Arata through.  The India-international controlled the ball finished with a first time left-footed attempt to put Pune FC 2-1 up.

However, Pune FC’s joy was once again short-lived as the hosts equalised seven minutes later. Attacker N T W controlled a diagonal ball and beat substitute Srikanth Ramu before pulling Nay Pyi Taw level for the second time.

At the other end, Pune FC had Haokip and Douhou go wide from distance as they continued to push up.

However, ten minutes later, it was Nay Pyi Taw who once again scored against the run of play. On a counter attack, substitute Htoo somehow curled his shot from the edge of the box on the left, into the far corner which hit the inside of the second post, to put the hosts ahead for the first time in the match.

Having fallen behind, Pune FC began pushing up aggressively and almost camped into the opponents’ half pumping balls into the box trying to get something.

Pune FC’s persistence paid off as Calum pulled them level in the 80th minute. Pressing their opponents constantly, Pune FC managed to open up space for Calum who drilled in a low shot at the near post from 30-yards out to set up a grand stand finish.

Into the final ten minutes, it was end to end action as both sides kept on attacking in search of the winner. With Nay Pyi Taw pushing further up, custodian Arup kept his cool blocking all attacks inside the Pune FC box.

At the other end Prakash, having a great game, almost got the winner. However, the Pune-born striker’s header off Douhou’s freekick was saved by Hruai from point blank range.

Into injury time, Pune FC went agonisingly close almost scoring the winner. Douhou got into the clear and rounded off the keeper inside the box but failed to slot in. However, Haokip won back the ball from a defender and cut back for Gabriel who blasted over from 10-yards out as the game ended 3-3.