Pune FC fought hard to overcame a tenacious Mohun Bagan AC side 1-0 in an U-19 I-League Final Phase Sixth Round encounter at the DSK Football Field in Loni on Saturday.
In an action-packed game, it was striker Arif Shaikh’s (45+2nd) goal in the first half injury time that proved to be the winner for Pune FC who also made it three wins-in-a-row.
The win was also the fourth win of the campaign for Pune FC who took their tally to 13 points, level with leaders Mohun Bagan but second on goal difference.
Going into the game, Pune FC Coach Naushad Moosa made three changes handing starts to keeper Tanmay Bhattacharjee, medio Sanchayan Samadder and striker Arif Shaikh.
The game began in frantic pace with both sides engaged in some end-to-end action. After some half chances at either end, Pune FC created the first chance of the game in the 19th minute when Md. Ashique’s curling attempt on a short corner on the right was saved by the keeper at the first post.
As Pune FC continued to increase the pressure, they once again went close at the half hour mark. Manoranjan Singh floated in a deep cross at the far post from the right was headed wide by Arif.
Into the final ten minutes of the half, Pune FC almost took the lead. Altamash Sayed found Arif inside the box on the left and the striker played a low ball across the goalmouth to Ashique who had his attempt from close come off the crossbar.
Minutes later, Ashique once again went close. This time Asheer Akhtar’s perfect cross in from the right was met by the lanky attacker but he was denied by the Bagan custodian who also saved Chesterpaul Lyngdoh’s attempt on the rebound.
Pune FC’s persistence finally paid off as they took the lead in first half injury time. After Sanchayan bulldozed past defenders in the midfield he found Altamash on the right and the skipper squared the ball to Yasir down the middle. The youngster took a crack from distance but the attempt was blocked by the keeper.
The rebound fell for Chesterpaul who timed his run well on the left and he chipped in a ball in front of the goal for Arif who headed home from close range to give Pune FC a 1-0 lead going into the breather.
The second half began in similar fashion with both sides attacking right from the word go. However, either side was let down by finishing in the final third.
While Altamash went close with his direct attempt on a corner only to be denied by the Bagan custodian, Pune FC keeper Tanmay kept a similar attempt out at the other end to maintain the lead.
Midway through the half, Sannik combined well with Ashique to create a good chance. A quick one two in the midfield saw Ashique set up Sannik on the left inside the box only for his powerful attempt to go inches over the bar.
Despite falling short of getting the second goal, Pune FC managed to hold on to a narrow 1-0 win keeping their first ever clean sheet in the final phase.