Pune FC logged their first victory in four matches over defending champions Churchill Brothers SC with a 1-0 win at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi in Pune on Saturday.
Defender Calum Angus’ strike (52nd minute) early in the second half was enough for Pune FC to secure all three points and continue their best-ever start to a season. The margin of victory, however, could have been much bigger had striker Thongkhosiem Haokip and medio Arata Izumi converted chances from close.
With this win Pune FC go top of the table jointly with Salgaocar FC and Bengaluru FC with ten points and are third on goal difference whereas the visitors stay eleventh.
The win also meant Pune FC extended their unbeaten run to nine games (stretching from last season) with eight wins and a draw.
Coach Mike Snoei made one change to the team from last round’s win over Mohun Bagan starting striker Haokip in place of the injured Raul Fabiani.
Both teams began the game on the offensive and went close in the first ten minutes. Churchill created the first close chance through striker Balwant Singh who was denied by Pune FC custodian Amrinder Singh with a diving save.
At the other end, medio Arata Izumi’s effort went agonisingly over after playmaker Douhou Pierre’s brilliantly sent him through with a chip from the center.
Couple minutes after the quarter hour mark, defender Gurjinder Kumar and winger Nikhil Kadam combined on the left before setting up Haokip. The striker created space with some good footwork but his effort went over the horizontal.
Four minutes later, Haokip capitalised on a mistake from a defender before shooting straight into the keeper from the edge of the box.
The visitors attacks kept revolving around their Portuguese striker Hugo Machado who went wide on many occasions throughout the half.
Both sides created a few more chances in the first half but were let down by poor finishing in the final third as they went into the break tied at goalless.
The second half began with Churchill Bros almost taking the lead through medio Lenny Rodrigues. The India-international beat Gurjinder on the right flank and sent in a curling shot from the edge of the box which brushed the upper side of the crossbar and went over.
Seven minutes into the half, Pune FC took lead through Calum. After winger Nikhil was hacked to the ground on the left, Calum stepped up and sent a powerful piledriver from 25-yards out at the far post beating ‘keeper Arindam Bhattacharya with sheer pace and the trajectory of the ball.
The hosts thereafter continued their domination and kept on pressing for the second. At the hour mark, Douhou combined with Nikhil on the left but saw his effort end into the side netting from the edge of the box.
Four minutes later, Douhou’s effort from inside the box once again ended in the side-netting after Haokip headed on Amrinder’s long goal kick.
At the other end, Amrinder kept all attacks at bay and produced another diving save to deny substitute Ahmad Al Kaddour – on for Anthony Pereira – after he created space on the left.
Midway through the half, Pune FC once again went close. Winger James Meyer’s cross in from the box wasn’t properly cleared and landed for Nikhil. The medio’s volleyed in a low ball into the box and Haokip, in front of goal, went wide with his first time attempt.
Deep into injury time, Pune FC went agonisingly close. Douhou combined with Arata and substitute Anthony D’Souza – on for Nikhil – to get into the clear on the left but his low ball into the box in front of an empty goalmouth found no takers.
The hosts held on to their lead for the third win of the season thanks to defender Calum who received his fourth consecutive Man of the Match of the season.
Man of the Match: Calum Angus