I-League: Pune hope to trounce Goa
Pune FC has several reasons to look for a positive outcome when they host Sporting Clube Goa in an I-League Round-17 encounter at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge Balewadi, on Sunday.
To begin with, Pune FC is still smarting over their defeat to Prayag United SC and will be keen to exploit the home advantage they have over the Goans. In the previous two encounters, between Pune FC and Sporting Goa, at Pune the former has always earned points.
While the focus is on maximum gains, Pune FC also face the task of rebuilding themselves into a Top-2 position they worked into three rounds back until AIFF's decision on Mohun Bagan pushed them down to 4th place currently.
Ironically, Pune FC goes into return-leg game against Sporting Clube after suffering a hiccup in their campaign. In the first-leg, Pune FC hoped to forget the 2-2 draw they played against United Sikkim FC and this time the 0-2 loss in Kolkata.
In fact, it was between this period (Round 8 to 16) that Pune FC enjoyed a seven-match unbeaten run that led to lateral movement on the league table.
Coach Derrick Pereira says, "We are looking to get back to winning ways. We've had a good 10 days gap between the last match and now to prepare mentally and work on areas where we needed to fine tune."
"We are all set for the match. At this point all teams are equal cannot take (Sporting) them lightly. I am expecting a good show by my boys."
Sporting Clube, currently placed in the bottom half of the table, go into the game with desperately looking for some consistency in their run. The team, like a host of other teams has changed their coach mid-way through the season and has Spaniard Oscar Burzon in charge in the last 6 games.
A switch in their style of play and a new goalkeeper in Bruno, incidentally their fourth of the season add up to the changes as they seek a transformation in fortunes.
Medio Ogba Kalu remains their key-player, who tops with 7 goals and is ably supported by Sporting's long-serving left winger in Jo Pereira who himself scored 4 goals. Japanese attacking recruit Seiya Sugishita has also impressed netting 3 times in 10 appearances.
With the prospects of new goalkeeper Bruno likely tomorrow, his first test will be against Pune FC top-scorer James Moga. The South-Sudan striker, an ex-Sporting Club Goa player, has 7 goals to his credit and will be looking to keep the momentum going.
Having gone through their paces early morning, the Pune FC Coach kept away from talk of starting with the advantage. "I've seen a couple of Sporting (Clube Goa) games they were good in patches... Inexperience at times showed up. For us we will look for the opportunity and be patient for our opportunity."
Earlier, in the first leg at Goa, Pune FC prevailed 2-1 and a positive result will double the record which is something they have not achieved in the past 2 seasons.
Pune FC, meanwhile, have made three changes to the squad that played in the last round. Goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly, defender Zohmingliana Ralte and wing-half Vellington Rocha come in place of Amrinder Singh, Caitano Costa and Mohanraj.
The home side will also miss the services of striker Jeje Lalpekhlua who is yet to recover from injury to his a left-leg ankle. Jeje was injured in Shillong. "Yes Jeje is out and is expected to be back for the next match," informed Pune FC Coach.
Past games between the Pune FC and the Goans have produced on an average 4 goals, barring the last game in Fatorda. There has only even been 1 clean-sheet in their 5 top-flight matches and the 2 encounters at Balewadi have also seen 4 goals.
While the home side will bank on Moga, Arata Izumi, Douhou Pierre, Chika Wali and Subash Singh have also netted in the past verses Sporting Goa. Interestingly, Moga last season had netted for Sporting Clube and will hope to come good for Pune FC this time.