Pune FC kept their winning run intact clinching a five-goal thriller against Salgaocar FC 3-2 in the Under-20 I-League (Final Phase) at the Gopal Stadium, Jamshedpur on Monday.
The victory was the second in-a-row and helped Pune FC to the top spot in the league table. Importantly, the win exacted revenge of the 1-2 loss Pune FC suffered in the group stage earlier.
Pune FC was led by a twin-strike by striker William Lalnunfela (20th & 55th minute) and a goal from skipper Nikhil Kadam (60th). Salgaocar FC fought back through Albino Pereira (44th) to level scores at half-time, before striker Melvin Fernandes (85th) struck a consolation goal.
The game began with the Goans pushing ahead and testing Pune FC ‘keeper Avilash Paul in the opening minute. However, he did well to collect the ball.
A minute later, Salgaocar’s Conny Dias and Nevin Pereira went head-on into each other resulting in a long stoppage. Both players had to be rushed to the hospital and led to Salgaocar FC making early substitutions.
Pune FC settled and pushed ahead, but the opponents despite the set-back did well to hold out. The Goans, in fact, had Rayman Fernandes take the first long range attempt after Stendly Miranda set him up from the left. The try lacked punch, but kicked up awkwardly ahead of Pune FC keeper Avilash Paul on its way wide.
Pune FC’s first inroad came past the first quarter of the hour. Winger Nikhil gained from striker Thongkhosiem Haokip’s head-on in the middle, weaved past the defence only for his poor grounder let him down.
At the other end, Pune FC defender Riyan Yadgiri cleared a full-blooded try by Neville Fernandes in an open goalmouth after ‘keeper Avilash was forced to leave his charge to thwart a run by Melvin.
A minute later, Pune FC took the lead in ‘lucky’ circumstances. Denechandra Meitei aided by a steal raced the left flank and released to Haokip. With custodian Albino Gomes leaving his charge, Haokip’s try was blocked before bouncing off a defender giving William the slightest of advantages to get a tap in the melee.
The goal gave Pune FC confidence as they pushed ahead. Nikhil on the right, did well to find striker Haokip with a square pass. The striker moved in and took a left-footer which caused the keeper to fumble only to control quickly as Nikhil moved in.
At the other end, Pune FC had ‘keeper Avilash to thank after he came out to check a run after defender Riyan had missed a forward pass.
Barring the rare attack, Pune FC showed a lot of confidence and attacking at will and squandered a chance to double the advantage. Six minutes past the half-hour mark playmaker F. Lalrempuia’s perfect through ball found William. Faced with just the advancing keeper upfront, the striker from a yard inside the penalty box went over which agonizingly sailed over the crossbar.
A minute from the break, Salgaocar managed to equalise. A quick movement down the centre left the central defense of Riyan and Salam Ranjan Singh beaten in a wall-pass sequence that had Albino score.
At the other end, Nikhil had his long range effort go just wide as both teams went into the breather locked at 1-1.
The second half was a similar story as Salgaocar managed to trouble the Pune FC defense in the opening exchanges. However seven minutes in, Denechandra’s cross in from the left beat the ‘keeper. But bad communication let the chance go a begging as Nikhil managed to connect with a header over the bar with William better placed.
Two minutes later, the duo worked a better plan which led to William giving Pune FC the lead (2-1). On a counter attack, Nikhil played a perfect through ball to William. Controlling on the run, William’s perfect finish from 16-yards out beat the ‘keeper to the second post.
Four minutes later, it was 3-1 after Nikhil got his name on the scoresheet. A great through ball from Lalrempuia from the right found Nikhil in the clear who went solo on a 15-yard run before controlled his finish through the legs of the ‘keeper.
The goals put Pune FC in the drivers seat as they started dominating the game. Midway through the half, William had his soft try over the keeper cleared by defender Jose Vaz. At the other end, Pune FC defense was holding firm as Riyan cleared a long ball in a 1-on-1 position.
Six minutes from time, William dug his attempt into the keeper after Nikhil sent him through.
At the other end though, Salgaocar managed to score a goal after some poor defending. Melvin played a nice wall pass with Albino to beat the defense. Once in the clear the finish was easy with just keeper to beat.
The goal set up nervous final minutes, but Pune FC did well to hold on. Strategically, they timed two substitutions in injury time to emerge on top.