Pune FC fired up a confidence boosting performance to play out a 1-1 draw against defending champions Bengaluru FC in their first preseason friendly at the Duler Football Stadium in Mapusa, Goa.
Playing their first game under Coach Karim Bencherifa, Pune FC was up against opponents who fielded a full strength squad replete with their foreign recruits and Indian stars. Pune FC, relatively, fielded a squad boasting of a mix of retained players and players on trials.
The opponents struck at stroke of halftime through striker Robin Singh (45th minute) before Pune FC pulled level through substitute striker Shoaib Syed.
Pune FC began proceedings on the defensive and soaked pressure. Eight minutes on, Pune FC went close for the first time through winger Anthony D’Souza only for his try to go inches wide.
Bengaluru FC kept on pushing ahead trying to find striker Robin inside the box, but Pune FC’s defensive duo of skipper Anas Edathodika and Zohmingliana Ralte made sure he didn’t get space.
Midway through the half, Anthony once again opened up the opponent’s defense, however his floated cross, which beat the ‘keeper, had no one to receive. At the other end, Thoi Singh went close from the right but his attempt went into the side netting.
In the final moments of the half, a defensive lapse allowed Robin to capitalise. The tall striker slotted home Lalchhuanmawia’s cross in from the left to give Bengaluru FC the lead going into the breather.
The second half was a different story. BFC pulled out Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh and Osano. Pune FC kept pushing more and once again it was Anthony who went close. The Goan winger’s dipping freekick from the top of the box on the left was fisted over by the rival custodian in the 55th minute.
Minutes later, Anthony was again in focus, but this time on the receiving end of Mallen’s reckless tackle. The referee rightly pulled out the red card and sent Mallen off.
With Bengaluru FC restricted to their own half, Pune FC made the extra man count as they piled on more pressure on the rival defense. Midway through the half, substitute Shoaib went close but his 20-yard scorcher was saved by the ‘keeper.
Six minutes later, Shoaib finally managed to equalise with a neat finish and pulled Pune FC level.
Pune FC: Arup (GK) (62’; Ansari), Matthew, Anas (C), Ralte, Raju (33’; Tanmoy), Mumtaz, Arata, Anthony, Lalrempuia (46’; Alex), Rocha (62’; Prakash), Ajay (46’; Shoaib)
Bengaluru FC: Pawan (GK), Rino, Johnson*, Osano*, Fanai, Joshua*, Beikhokhei, Thoi, Siam, Chhetri, Robin