Pune FC buried their away match ghosts of the I-League this season
with a facile 3-1 win over defending champions Salgaocar SC in a Round-9 encounter played at the Nehru stadium Fatorda, Goa on Thursday.
The win was Pune FC’s first away win in three games and was made possible by a goal each by Shanmugam Venkatesh (17th), Mandjou Keita (35th) and substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua (89th) apart from a heroic performance by custodian Abhra Mondal who won the Man of the Match award for his feat. For Salgaocar, Ryuji Sueoka (22nd) scored the equalizer.
Pune FC took their tally to 14 points, but importantly they managed to catapult three places up the league table to sixth position. Interestingly, the victory also means that Pune FC kept their slate clean against the Goans in the costal state by registering a hat trick of wins.
The line up fielded by Pune FC had two changes; Caitano Costa coming in for left-wing back Gurjinder Kumar and Douhou (for Arata Izumi), while striker Jeje Lalpekhlua began on the bench and turned out to be a surprise.
However, with Jeje’s absence the strike-force of Mandjou Keita and Subash Singh did not disappoint. Five minutes on a stiff by Keita had custodian Karanjit Singh save and also made Pune FC’s intentions clear.
At Pune FC’s end the Goans almost forced a penalty kick. Defender Anas Edathodika’s overhead clearance found seemingly touched his arm to which Salgaocar’s appeal was turned down.
Then, after battling it out for eleven minutes thereafter, Pune FC broke the Salgaocar defence after right wing back Srikant Ramu’s cross was brilliantly finished by central medio Shanmugam Venkatesh. The goal was Venkatesh’s second for Pune FC in away I-League games with the last being scored against JCT twenty three months ago in Ludhiana.
Five minutes later Pune Fc found themselves all square again with medio Ryuji Sueoka tapping in an Abhra Mondal’s punched effort which he was forced into owing to a long range shot that was taken.
On a solo 20-yard dash, Douhou Pierre raised Pune FC’s anxiety levels let flying an effort that zipped past four players only to find the post.
Ten minutes from half time, Pune FC had striker Keita continue his fine form by giving his side the lead for the second time. The goal came off an excellent counter attack following a free-kick, wherein Venkatesh laid it for Keita who tapped in with ease.
Just before halftime, Keita’s shot trickled inches wide.
In the second half Pune FC goalkeeper Abhra stood tall by effecting saves in crunch moments and in the bargain took a lot of beating. Four minutes on Abhra pulled off a blinder save from Sueoka from three-yards out. The shot put him down but he was up and ready to go on.
Pune FC brought in Jeje, Othallo Tabia (on for Karma Tsewang) and Arata Izumi to add fresh legs to the team who went into a slump wherein the opponents hit the crossbar once and held sway for about 15 minutes.
It was Jeje at the other end who missed a sitter of a connection that took the attention off his team’s goal. Abhra continued at the end to be at his best when he faced up to striker Chidi Edeh’s stiff shot, which felled him after the ball creamed him on its way out.
Pune FC added a third goal with two substitutes involved. Arata Izumi who replaced Keita did well to supply Jeje (on for Subhash) a tap-in opportunity, which the striker obliged with ease.