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

Pune FC end East Bengal jinx; bounce back win a 2-1 win

Pune FC stars Ishfaq Ahmed and Thongkhosiem Haokip

Pune FC stars Ishfaq Ahmed and Thongkhosiem Haokip

Pune FC came from a goal down to register a famous 2-1 win over East Bengal Club in a crucial I-League Round 10 encounter at the Barasat Stadium in Kolkata on Sunday.

In a hard fought game, striker Dudu Omagbemi (44th minute) put East Bengal up in the first half before substitute Ishfaq Ahmed (45+1st) levelled scores for Pune FC minutes later. Striker Thongkhosiem Haokip then netted the winner for Pune FC in the 66th minute as they registered their first win after three consecutive losses in the I-League.

Pune FC’s seventh win of the campaign was also their third away win and  took their tally to 26 points from 18 games as they moved into joint 4th position with East Bengal but they stay fifth on goal difference.

The win was Pune FC’s first over East Bengal in four years and also their third overall victory as they ended their jinx against the Kolkata side. Interestingly, Pune FC have won all these three game with a margin of 2-1.

Going into the game, Pune FC Asst. Coach Gift Raikhan made two changes handing starts to striker Thongkhosiem Haokip and midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh.

After soaking pressure in the early exchanges, Pune FC settled in and began to see more of the ball. However, with physical football on show, either side found it difficult to penetrate the rival box.

After a calm half an hour, East Bengal created the first clear chance of the game in the 31st minute when Cavin Lobo’s lofted pass found an unmarked Ranti Martins just outside the Pune FC box. The Nigerian striker controlled and got clear inside the box but was denied in a one-on-one situation by a great save from keeper Amrinder Singh.

Pune FC were dealt with a blow in the 39th minute when Portuguese winger Edgar Marcelino was stretchered out and replaced by Ishfaq Ahmed.

The midfielder was called into action almost instantly in the 41st minute as Pune FC went close. Ishfaq played a long ball to Darko Nikac on the left who did well to control and cut into the box. Sensing lack of space to get a clean shot, the Montenegrin striker intelligently slid back the ball. Ishfaq in the meantime continued his run and did well to get into the box but his first time effort ended up in the sidenetting.

As it seemed that the first half would end goalless, the game exploded into life in the final few minutes. First, East Bengal took the lead in the 44th minute when Harmanjot Khabra found Dudu with a through ball just outside the box.

With Mummun Lugun failing to keep up with the offside line, the Nigerian striker capitalised to move up, control and blast his shot into the roof of the net from just inside the box leaving Amrinder no chance.

Pune FC didn’t give up and equalised at the other end almost instantly in the first minute of injury time. A quick breakaway move from the right saw Ryuji Sueoka float in a cross inside the box on the left. Ishfaq who timed his run well, looped a header over the keeper at the far post. Meanwhile, Darko did well to shield off Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh to allow the ball to go into the goal handing Ishfaq his first goal in Pune FC colors since joining in January.

After some end-to-end action in the final moments of the half, both sides went into the breather tied at 1-1.

The second half was a similar story as both sides opted for physical play right from the word go. This time however, they created close chances too. While Ishfaq went close for Pune FC early on with his effort from inside the box in the 48th minute, East Bengal’s Cavin had his attempt come off the woodwork in the 54th.

As the game progressed, Pune FC kept the pressure on and almost scored in the 65th minute. Sueoka did well to control the ball inside the box and slide back for substitute Velington Rocha – in for Darko – on the run. However, his attempt from the edge of the box went agonisingly wide.

Nonetheless, Pune FC finally took the lead a minute later. Left-back Munmun curled in a neat cross from the flank to Haokip inside the box on the right. The striker controlled and dug his attempt into the ground towards the far post. The ball hit the woodwork and rolled in as Haokip finally got back on the scoresheet after two and a half months for his 12th goal of the season.

Thereafter, East Bengal constantly tried to push up in search of the equaliser, but were denied by some brilliant goalkeeping by Amrinder who was supported well by the back four.

Into the final ten minutes, Pune FC had a couple of chances in rival half through Arata Izumi and Ishfaq but their attempts lacked the finish.

Into injury time, Haokip and Ishfaq did well to combine with quick passes just outside the rival box. Ishfaq with a clever touch sent Haokip clear on the left, but the striker failed to take a shot.

Meanwhile, East Bengal desperately tried to push up on search of the equaliser, but Pune FC held on to their narrow advantage to seal a well-deserved win.