I League: Pune ease past Prayag United
Pune FC took another step up the table with a convincing 3-1 win over Prayag United SC on Saturday in an I-League Round 12 encounter at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi here .
The result was the host's best ever over their Kolkata rivals in 11 meetings of the elite league and also stretched their unbeaten run in this season's league to seven.
The architect of the victory was striker James Moga (8th and 77th minute) and defender Othallo Tabia (17th).
Striker CK Vineeth (51st) pulled one back for the visitors to cut back the lead and give some hope to PUSC after the breather.
With this win, Pune FC moved up to third place (provisionally) in the table with 23 points while PUSC stay at 5th place with 17 points. Victory was also Pune FC's third at home.
Pune FC began the game fielding the same eleven that played against Dempo SC and only made one change to their 18 by bringing in Nallappan Mohanraj for Sukhwinder Singh.
The initial build up between the two teams, saw both sides push deep and repeatedly probe each other as they tried to stamp their authority respectively.
Eight minutes into the game and Karma Tsweang, who had a couple of free runs, put Moga into possession on the right.
The Pune FC striker timed his run well, kept aside Anupam Sarkar's challenge before sending a blinder past Gouramangi Moirangthem leaving seasoned custodian Subrata Paul motionless as the ball zipped past his ears to the roof of the net at the near post.
This led to a period of domination for the hosts, and they swiftly doubled their lead in the 17th minute, when Chika Wali found Othallo Tabia with a cross, and the right-back's looping header left Subrata helpless in goal.
The goal was the resultant of a Douhou Pierre corner-kick sailing across the PUFC goal to defender Chika.
PUSC's striker Ranti Martins then almost got to the end of a cross by Malsawm Tlunga Shylo, but Pune FC custodian Abhra Mondal intervened to clear the danger.
Soon after, the Nigerian had another headed opportunity, but this time he failed to hit the target.
A free-kick floated in by Lalkamal Bhowmick then almost did halve the Red Lizards lead, as Abhra Mondal mis-read the flight of the ball. To his relief the ball went just wide.
Pune FC was well in their stride by the half hour mark, completely dominating the opposition. Moga however spurned a glorious chance to score the third of the night, when he side-footed wide from an Izumi Arata cross, with the goal at his mercy.
Lalkamal Bhowmick returned the favour at the other end, as he got to the end of Deepak Mandal's cross, but failed to direct it goalwards.
Much to the Pune faithful's dismay, Moga missed an identical chance, to the one he had missed a mere few minutes ago, this time failing to turn home Karma Tsewang's cross.
As expected, the Kolkatan outfit came out all guns blazing in the second half and promptly took the lead, when Abhra Mondal could only look on helplessly, as his brilliant save from a Ranti shot fell kindly in CK Vineeth's path.
The former Chirag United Kerala made no mistake in slotting the ball into the net in the 51st minute.
It was his strike-partner, James Moga though, who restored Pune FC's two goal advantage, as he headed in Douhou Pierre's freekick in the 77th minute. It was the South-Sudan striker's fourth goal in two matches and season's 3rd brace.
Pune FC pressed hard and had their skipper miss a glorious opportunity to add to the scoreline.
Karma finding space on the right ventured deep, before playing back to Douhou on top of the box. With no one upfront and just the PUFC keeper, Douhou did well in trying at the second post, but his grounder whizzed past the second post even as 'keeper Subrata Paul watched helplessly.
The game got more physical in the final quarter as the visitors tried hard to break Pune FC's defence. However, the back-line was calm and saw off the game with ease.