Pune FC got off to a flying start with a fighting 2-1 come-from-behind win over Sesa FA, Goa in the Under-20 I-League (Final Phase) at the JRD Sports Complex, Jamshedpur on Saturday.
Defender George D’Souza (2rd minute) gave Sesa FA the lead before striker Subashish Bose (9th) equalised for Pune FC. His striker partner Thongkhosiem Haokip’s (31st) goal at the half-hour mark, proved to be the winner.
Pune FC however played the final quarter of the game with ten men after defender Anuj Negi was sent off for a second bookable offense.
Sesa FA took charge earlier in the game. After having missed a freekick in the early exchanges, they took the lead in the 2nd minute through a frekick conversion by George. The foul was earned by Olvin who was tackled by L.H Lalrinawma (Rinte) 25 yards out.
George’s left-footed stinging effort was met by Avilash, who got a hand, but could not keepit out. At the other end, Pune FC winger Nikhil Kadam had his left-footed grounder well covered by keeper Shaikh Faiyaz at the first post.
The move gave Pune FC the confidence as they forced themselves up in search of the equalizer and scored inside ten minutes when Haokip was fouled by Raju Haldankar. Off the resultant free-kick, Subasish beat the ‘keeper Shaikh Faiyaz from 22-yards at the far post.
Pune FC began dominating proceedings thereafter and had Nikhil waste an opportunity after playmaker F. Lalrempuia did well to find him in the clear. Sesa defence were forced to clear as Pune FC attacked frequently.
Midway through the half, striker William Lalnunfela was brought down by Myran Pereira and the play was held up. The stoppage proved good for Pune FC as they took the lead when play resumed.
On the half-hour mark, Lalrempuia found Nikhil in the clear on the right with a great forward release. The winger controlled the ball before holding off two defenders and squared the ball to striker Haokip who finished from 6-yards out.
Five minutes later, Pune FC went agonisingly close. Subasish played a long cross from in from the left to Nikhil at the second post. The winger did well to pull back his volley into the box only to have no takers.
The game turned into a physical battle and was evident by the number of fouls committed by both teams. Pune FC survived a scare after the defense blocked a free kick from a dangerous position on top of the box.
At the breather, Pune FC went into the break with the 2-1 advantage.
Pune FC came back strongly in the second half and had Haokip and Nikhil go wide minutes after restart. Three minutes in, Denechandra Meitei’s grounder on a freekick went wide after Subasish was fouled.
At the other end, keeper Avilash was at his best as he kept on denying the opponents. Around the hour mark, Haokip got into a great position after controlling Nikhil’s cross on the top of the box only to be flagged for a foul.
Five minutes after the hour mark, Pune FC had their keeper Avilash to thank. After defender Anuj brought down Jaison Vaz on the edge of the box, medio Mauvin Borges directed a header off the freekick goalwards only for an alert Avilash to block.
Into the final quarter, Pune FC almost scored a third. Subasish found substitute Abung Meeitei on the left whose first time cross found Nikhil on the run. Nikhil’s shot deflected and the keeper managed to hold on to the spinning ball inches off the line.
Five minutes later, Pune FC was reduced to 10-men after defender Anuj’s foul on Olvin earned him a second yellow. Incidentally, it was the same player that earned Anuj the first yellow card in the first half.
Sesa FA made most of their numerical advantage as they attacked the Pune FC box repeatedly.
Despite a player down, Pune FC showed great fighting spirit as they held off various Sesa attacks in the final ten minutes.
Into injury time, Pune FC had another glorious chance to score the third after substitute striker Deepak Kumar was put into the clear by Nikhil on a counter. The striker finding himself clear and onside inside the box ended up confused letting the one-on-one situation go wasted.