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Pune FC logged their first win of the season with a 1-0 win over United Sikkim FC in a Group-D Federation Cup encounter.
Victory not only earned Pune FC three crucial points, but also helped shrug off the sluggish start they had in the Durand Cup.
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua (51st minute) settled the issue in Pune FC’s favour with a left-footed finish from outside the penalty box.
Jeje’s strike was his second of the current season. Interestingly, he also lived up to being Pune FC’s top-scorer in the Fed Cup. So far, Jeje has scored four goals for Pune FC in the federations premier cup competition.
The match began with USFC playing a 5-4-1 formation which relied on counter attacks while Pune FC went with their favoured 4-4-2 formation.
After trading corner-kicks, it was central midfielder and Pune FC captain Douhou Pierre who worked the ‘keeper well in the ninth minute. Settling into possession play, Pune FC tried hard to find an opening in the opponents defence but could not force any clear cut chances.
Twenty minutes into the game defender Chika Wali, moving up for a corner-kick ended up heading inches wide off the USFC vertical.
Pune FC continued to push, but were repeatedly checked short of the final third. Adding to the difficulty was the slippery ground owing to a persistent drizzle during the half.
At the other end, USFC gave the Pune FC defence a couple of anxious moments with well played crosses that were dealt with without too many problems.
Thirty-five minutes on and Pune FC medio Arata Izumi squandered the best chance of the match- missing from close range.
A minute before half-time, Pune FC were awarded a free-kick on the top of the box for a USFC hand-ball. Douhou’s attempt rebounded and rolled to Arata, who blasted just over.
At half time the score remained 0-0.
Changing ends, both teams settled into midfield play, until Jeje opened the scoring with a crisp try that left the keeper rooted. Pune FC won the ball in the middle off the park, and quickly got it forward to striker Subash Singh who played a neat angled ball to Jeje on the left. Jeje took the ball well on the turn in 1-touch and unleashed a powerful low-shot which skidded past goalkeeper Monotosh Ghosh before he could get down in time.
The goal helped Pune FC grow in confidence and create a host of chances to finish of the game but failed to capitalise. With the game over the hour mark, Pune FC’s medio Shanmugam Venkatesh had a good attempt go abegging.
Minutes later, Douhou sent his free-kick into the box, but found no takers to put it away. Pune FC, meanwhile, gave a debut to their Japanese-signing Daisuke Nishiguchi who came on to replace Douhou.
The move helped add thrust to the attack, before Coach Derrick Pereira added Gurjinder Kumar for Arata in his bid to increase the tally. In doing so, Pune FC held on to possession for long periods, which helped keep USFC at bay for the remaining fifteen minutes of the game.
The win was Pune FC’s third in a Fed Cup (final phase) opening match in the four they have played since inception and puts them in a good position going into the final two matches of the group stage.
In the other game – Salgaocar FC downed Prayag United SC 1-0 thus making Saturday’s Pune FC v Prayag United SC game a crucial one to decide which team will go through to the semi-finals from this group.
Thursday 20th September, 2012, 3:00 PM
Federation Cup – Group Stage, Match 1
Pune FC: Amrinder (GK) – Srikanth, Anas, Chika, Mohanraj, Karma, Mumtaz, Douhou (76′ Daisuke), Arata (84′ Gurjinder), Subash (64′ Venky), Jeje
United Sikkim FC: Monotosh Ghosh (GK) – Rahul Jaiswal, Anwar, Sandesh Jhingan, Ashish Chettri, Munmun Lugun, Zenith Mashangva (Thupden Bhutia), Raju Debnath, Shabbir Ali (Sahensha Ansari), Linekar Machado, Budhiram Tudu
Raju Debnath (USFC)