Pune FC showed no mercy in completing a huge 5-0 win over Assam State Electricity Board in a third round Group B encounter to seal their place in the semifinals of the 2014 King’s Cup at the Changlimithang Stadium in Bhutan on Sunday.
The big win was powered by striker Thongkhosiem Haokip (20th, 29th, 67th minute), who scored a memorable hattrick, as well as midfielder Arata Izumi (14th) and substitute Velington Rocha (85th) who contributed in Pune FC’s third consecutive win.
Thus, Pune FC became the first team to seal a place in the last-four of the competition, and did so with a game in hand having collected nine points from their first three games. They now lead the chasing pack of Abahani Ltd, Dhaka (4 pts), MMC, Nepal (4 pts) and Ugyen Academy Bhutan (3pts), all fighting for the second place in Group B after ASEB (0 pts) got knocked out.
Going into the game, Coach Karim Bencherifa fielded the same Starting XI from the previous match with Luciano Sabrosa replacing Shoaib Syed on the bench.
Pune FC began the game on the offensive and had the attacking trio of Haokip, Eric Brown and Ryuji Sueoka go close on a few occasions, before finally taking the lead in 14th minute.
A good combination play between Haokip and Sueoka had the Japanese play a quick wall pass to send Arata in the clear who made no mistake in slotting the ball past Daoga Brahma in the ASEB goal.
Minutes later, Pune FC doubled their advantage as Arata turned provider. The move began with Eric sending Arata clear on the left. The India-international sprinted, turned and squared an inch perfect ball to Haokip on the run who slid the ball into the goal ahead of defender Kbiswanath Karmarkar.
Nine minutes later, Pune FC got their third goal, once again through Haokip. After Sueoka did well to steal a ball and take a crack on goal, the deflection off defender Sunil Murmo took the ball to Haokip who lunged forward to complete his brace.
At the other end, ASEB were restricted to a handful of chances with the Pune FC defense clearing all attempts.
Pune FC kept the pressure on and created a few half chances in the final quarter of the first half before almost getting another goal deep into injury time. However, Eric was unlucky as his effort from the edge of the box hit the base of the framework after Sueoka did well to set up the Liberian.
The first half ended with Pune FC leading 3-0.
The second half was a similar story as Pune FC kept on attacking the rival goal but fell short of increasing their lead thanks to some deep defending by the ASEB backline.
However, Pune FC finally got their fourth goal midway through the half. Substitute Mumtaz Akhtar did well to find another substitute Nikhil Kadam on the left flank. The young winger then raced past Hemanta Brahma and played a square pass to an unmarked Haokip just on the edge of the box who kept calm and finished past the helps s keeper to complete his first-ever hattrick in Pune FC colours.
Moments later, it was midfielder Lalrempuia Fanai who almost got another for Pune FC. However, his first-time effort from 22-yards out on Eric’s pass came off the woodwork.
At the other end, a down and out ASEB side was handed a lifeline to get a consolation goal in the 78th minute. The referee awarded ASEB a penalty kick after defender Salam Ranjan Singh fouled Dwimhlu Brahma inside the box. However, skipper Sanjay Boro fired his low effort on the spot kick wide to keep the score intact.
At the other end, Pune FC scored once more as Rocha’s strike gave them a five goal lead. In the 85th minute, Lalrempuia picked up Srikanth Ramu’s pass in the centre and found Nikhil on the left who accelerated past Mitradev Swagiary down the flank.
Nikhil then found Rocha outside the box, who controlled the ball and once inside the box placed it past the ASEB custodian to complete the rout.
Into the final minutes of the game, Pune FC almost got another, however Haokip’s effort from close range was saved by the keeper after Nikhil did well to set him up as the game ended 5-0.