Pune, Apr 27 UNI | 3 months ago

Pune FC were inching closer to their best ever finish in the I-League while having a say in the title race till the very last match day.

It was also the time when the Red Lizards were coming to terms with the departure of their influential manager Derrick Pereira who had announced his desire to return to his former club, Salgaocar Sports Club, Goa.

Fast forward 12 months and Pune FC finds themselves flirting with mid table obscurity in the Airtel I-League football championship.

With Bengaluru FC having already sealed the title in the previous round, seventh placed Pune FC and sixth-placed Dempo prepare for an inconsequential league tie that will draw curtains to the season.

It was always going to be a season of transition for the Red Lizards as they gambled on many youth players under the new management of Dutch coach Mike Snoei.

It can be argued that, a mid-table finish in the I-league and a bottom of the group performance in the AFC Cup later, the team is still finding its shape.

Pune come into the match after a morale boosting win over Hong Kong based Kitchee in the AFC Cup.

Their first win in 13 matches since defeating Mohemmedan Sporting 2-0 way back in February.

The Kitchee win was their first victory at the continental stage which came a little too late as the club had already exited the tournament.

Languishing in seventh place, Pune will look back and ponder on whether they could have painted a different picture by the end of the season.

There was a stage in the season when Pune FC were right in the mix for the domestic title and were gearing up for a memorable continental adventure in the AFC Champions League followed by the AFC Cup.

The experience of playing in the continental competition captured the imagination of the club which could have come as a distraction on the domestic front.

At one stage of the season, Pune had newly crowned champions Bengaluru well in their sights.

It all changed once the fixtures started to pile up and the Pune club simply failed to maintain the tempo both in the AFC and the I-League, which eventually cost them both the opportunities.

But Pune FC will look to finish the season strongly and without the interruption of AFC assignments next season can aim for an all out assault in the I-League next season. Anything less will come as a disappointment.

(Posted on 28-04-2014)