South Sudanese striker James Moga finally came into his own flow, but despite scoring two goals, Pune FC struggled to a 2-2 draw against Bhaichung Bhutia inspired United Sikkim FC, at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium here on Saturday.
Moga was off the blocks in the very first minute after Gurjinder Singh fed him a pass soon after the kick-off. But early celebrations were doused when Pune FC goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly was beaten twice within a minute that saw United Sikkim go 2-1 up.
DG Attivi scored in the 26th minute and then Safar Sardar made it 2-1 in the 27th minute to leave Pune FC fans in daze. Moga equalized in the 68th minute to give Derrick Pereira’s side the much needed respite in the Round VII match of the I-League football championship.
The draw left Pune FC in the No 7 position with 10 points from six matches, in the I-League standings, though they have a match in hand. United Sikkim stayed at No 13 with 5 points.
After Moga put Pune FC in front, Srikanth Ramu made a foray from the right getting better of a defender before sending in a cross. But that was too wide for Daisuke Nishiguchi at the far post.
Pune FC continued to keep the ball possession and when Karma Tsewang saw Jeje Lalpekhlua rushing into the box, he sent a cross but the striker failed to trap the ball in the 13th minute.
Srikanth again moved up, but his 22nd minute pass to Karma was nullified as United Sikkim defenders blocked the onrushing midfielder.
Three minutes later, Daisuke headed the ball over the crosspiece off skipper Douhou Pierre free kick.
United Sikkim finally decided to take the initiative that left home goalkeeper facing the music. First Attivi took a crack from 30 yards and beat the unsuspecting Meloly in the 26th minute an then Safar’s 25-yard grounder further added to Meloly’s misery.
Two minutes later Karma earned a corner for Pune FC, but Douhou let go the ground ball as goalkeeper Monotosh Ghosh pushes the ball to safety. Five minutes from half-time, Meloly sends a long ball to Jeje, who muscled through the defence on the left, but a Sikkim defender intercepted him.
Pune FC must thank its stars as a Nadong Bhutia’s charge got wasted in the 43rd minute. The Sikkim striker had got through on a counter after Caitano Costa failed to clear the ball. But Bhutia’s strike in a huff went wide.
The two teams began on a tentative note on changing ends. Jeje was in the thick of action as his header off substitute Nikhil Kadam’s cross from the left got blocked in the 63rd minute. Pune FC seemed in a hurry to get that elusive equaliser when things got heated up and Chika Wali ended up with an yellow card in the 66th minute.
But Moga was at hand and he scored cleanly in the 68th minute and then had a few more chances that went abegging.