Pune FC checked by Sporting Clube, end unbeaten run
Ten-man Pune FC were handed their first loss of the season by Sporting Clube de Goa going down 0-2 in Goa on Saturday.
Second-half strikes from striker Victorino Fernandes (54th minute) and medio Pratesh Shirodkar (90+4th) handed the Goans full points. The win also snapped Pune FC’s 10-match (stretching from the previous season) unbeaten run.
Pune FC was reduced by a man after goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was sent off for a second bookable offence in final quarter of the second half.
The keeper’s first booking came after he delayed taking a goalkick and subsequently when he left his charge in a desperate bid to rectify a soft back pass by skipper Anas Edathodika and instead brought down substitute Velito D’Cruz in a one-to-one situation in the 22-yard area.
The result meant Pune FC slipped to fourth after Sporting leapfrogged them into the third place on head-to-head as both teams now have 13 points.
Coach Mike Snoei made three changes to the starting line-up bringing in Dhanpal Ganesh, Velington Rocha and Riga Mustapha in place of Anthony D’Souza, Nikhil Kadam and Thongkhosiem Haokip.
The visitors, restricted mostly to their half in the opening quarter, at times did well to work themselves ahead only to fall short. The Goans, in contrast, went close on a couple of occasions. Sporting’s striker Victorno Fernandes and defender Arturo Navarro having their moments in the first twenty minutes.
In fact, Arturo’s attempt was the closest. Off a Rojen Singh’s free-kick from the left, Arturo did well to connect goalward at the second post, which Amrinder kept out. The rebound that ensued, was chased by Kalu who backheeled needing another alert save which Amrinder came on tops again.
Mid-way into the half, Pune FC suffered their first set-back in the match. Defender Calum Angus was stretchered out and was replaced by youngster Salam Ranjan Singh who made his debut.
At the other end, Pune FC went close. Playmaker Douhou Pierre did well to find Othallo Tabia on the right who crossed in for Riga. The debutant striker, however, was denied by the Sporting goalkeeper who won a foul instead owing to a full body contact.
Pune FC kept pushing forward but finishing in the final third let them down. They once again went close in the 38th minute through Riga who was crowded out inside the box after some good work by defender Tabia, midfielders Ganesh and Rocha on the right.
Amrinder produced another save as he left charge to collect a defense splitting ball from medio Kalu Ogba for Victorino on the run just in time.
Both teams went into the break tied at goalless, but not before Pune FC survived a close call when Arturo volleyed a Cajetan cross from the left onto the horizontal in the final minute.
Snoei then made the second substitution for Pune FC bringing in striker Haokip in place of winger Rocha.
Nine minutes after restart, the hosts took the lead off a set piece that Sporting earned when Ganesh brought down Victorino on the left. Shirodkar found Rowllin Borges on the right who sent it wide to Arturo. The Spaniard, finding himself in the clear, sent a pass across the goal-mouth which Victorino slotted home.
At the other end, Riga managed to win a header off a corner kick but failed to keep it down as another chance for the visitors went abegging.
Into the final ten minutes, Pune FC once again created a close chance on a freekick earned for a foul on Haokip. This time, however, Douhou’s floated effort into the box found no takers.
Two minutes later, Pune FC suffered their second setback when ‘keeper Amrinder received his second booking, which added up as a disadvantage as by then Pune FC had already made three substitutions Ranjan (for Calum), Haokip (for Rocha) and Shanmugam Venkatesh (for Ganesh). As a result Anas donned the role of makeshift goalkeeper for a little over 10 minutes of regulation time.
Pushing hard Pune FC, thereafter, did well to work deep into the Sporting half but fell short. Into injury time, medio Arata Izumi went on a great run on the left and sent in a low cross inside the Sporting box to Riga who was denied by a solid block by skipper Matthew Gonsalves.
At the other end, Sporting scored their second through Shirodkar two minutes later. The playmaker scored past make-shift keeper Anas after being set up by Borges from the right.
The loss was Pune FC’s second in four meetings in Goa.