I-L: Pune FC go down 3-1 to MB
Missed chances cost Pune FC as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat to Mohun Bagan AC in an I-League Round 16 encounter at the Vidyasagar Krirangan in Barasat on Saturday.
Bagan's win was powered by a brace from skipper Odafa Okolie (31st and 88th minute) and a goal from winger Ram Malik (75th). Pune FC however, pulled one back through substitute striker Thongkhosiem Haokip (79th) but a late surge from the hosts saw them through.
The loss was Pune FC's third in the season as they stay third in the standings with 24 points while Mohun Bagan (18 pts) moved up to seventh.
Coach Mike Snoei made three changes to the team from the previous round bringing in Fanai Lalrempuia, Arata Izumi and Gurjinder Kumar in place of Dhanpal Ganesh, Mumtaz Akhtar and Ranjan Singh.
Both sides began the game cautiously creating attacks from the back. After half chances at either end, it was Bagan who drew first blood. Seven minutes in, striker Odafa fired his freekick from range just over the crossbar after his strike-partner Christopher Chizoba was fouled.
At the other end, Pune FC too went close but defender Calum Angus' powerfully drilled freekick sailed wide after winger James Meyer was fouled outside the box.
A minute past the quarter hour mark, playmaker Douhou Pierre set up medio Arata with a long ball. The India-international controlled it, but his left-footed volley from inside the box went agonisingly wide.
Pune FC kept on pressing and had a Douhou attempt from just outside the box go wide after striker Riga Mustapha had set him up.
However, it the hosts who took the lead against the run of play. After Arata failed to clear the ball inside the box, Chizoba capitalised and ran clear on the left before cutting back for Sabeeth whose attempt from close range was saved by keeper Amrinder Singh. The rebound fell for Odafa, who was lurking around, and he tapped in from couple yards.
The hosts thereafter slowed down the pace of the game in an attempt to hold on to their one goal lead.
Into the final minutes of the half, winger Anthony D'Souza went close. However, his shot from outside the box on the left went wide at the far post.
At the other end, Odafa once again went close. Dribbling past three defenders on the edge of the box his powerful shot sailed inches over the crossbar as Bagan took their one goal lead into the break.
Intent on scoring a quick equaliser and adding more firepower upfront, Pune FC brought in striker Haokip to replace Arata at half time.
After Amrinder denied Odafa early on in the half, Pune FC went close at the other end seven minutes later. Douhou dribbled past a couple of defenders before chipping a ball to Riga on the run. The striker managed to connect but his half-volley was deflected for a corner.
Off the resulting corner kick, Pune FC almost equalised only for Riga's header to be cleared on the goalline by a Bagan defender.
Three minutes later, Pune FC had another glorious chance. After Riga's attempt from outside the box was saved by an outstretched Shilton Paul, the rebound fell to Meyer inside the box on the right. The Australian however, missed the sitter, sending his attempt into the side-netting with nobody challenging.
As the half progressed, both sides continued to press and had chances at either end. Riga's snapshot from the edge of the box was saved by Shilton before Haokip headed wide defender Gurjinder Kumar's cross.
Midway through the half, Odafa had another opportunity to score the second. A miscommunication in Pune FC's midfield and the defense led to Nigerian running clear on the right. However, Amrinder kept his cool denying Odafa a shot as the defense finally arrived to clear the danger.
The hosts doubled their advantage five minutes later after another defensive blunder. Chizoba did well to send Malik into the clear on the left after the defense had moved up. Amrinder rushed out to block the attempt, but the ball slid below him and allowed Malik to put it into an empty net.
At the other end, Pune FC pulled one back four minutes later. After Meyer was fouled outside the box on the left, Calum drilled a powerful low shot on the resulting freekick. The ball came off the near post and the rebound fell for Haokip who timed his run perfectly to slot home from close.
The goal saw Pune FC push further up in search of the equaliser and had substitute Velington Rocha go close but his header off Mumtaz Akhtar's cross went inches wide.
At the other end, Odafa once again went close. This time his freekick from the left came off the crossbar with Amrinder having no chance at all.
The Nigerian finally completed his brace two minutes from time. Beating off a couple challenges, Odafa ran clear into the box before sliding the ball into the net scoring Bagan's third.
Pune FC tried to push in the final minutes of the game, but Mohun Bagan held on for the win.
(Posted on 21-12-2013)