Pune FC held to goalless draw by TFA
Jamshedpur, Mar 22 : Pune FC was held to a goalless draw by a crowd-backed Tata Football Academy (TFA) in Round-4 of the Under-20 I-League (Final Phase) at the Gopal Stadium, Jamshedpur on Friday. The result took Pune FC's points tally to 10, which makes the last round on Sunday important to decide the league title. Host's TFA (8 points), Sesa FA (6 points), Mohun Bagan (4 pts), East Bengal (4 pts) and Salgaocar FC (1 pt) trail on the league table. On Sunday, Pune FC plays East Bengal after TFA take on Mohun Bagan at the JRD Sports Complex. Backed by a sizable crowd, TFA began cautiously and shared early exchanges. However, it was Pune FC who weaved the first deep inroad. Winger Nikhil Kadam's chip was rightly intended for striker William Lalnunfela but ended a yard long allowing TFA 'keeper Gurpreet Singh control. At the other end, defender Ranjan Singh and Riyan Yadgiri cut down Udanta Singh's run on the left flank. Minutes later, Pune FC created two quick chances. First striker Thongkhosiem Haokip's soft shot on goal following a wall pass by Nikhil, awkwardly bounced before the 'keeper who managed to grab on his second attempt. A minute later, Pune FC missed the only open chance of the match that came by from either side. Defender Riyan Yadgiri's long ball created confusion between TFA's Chinglensana Singh and Suraj, leaving William in the clear. Pouncing on the opportunity, William moved into the penalty area and from a 1-on-1 situation tapped wide from 10-yards out, instead of tapping at the second post. The miss proved costly as thereafter both teams left no space for either. Three minutes later, defender Ranjan sent his freekick deep. Keeper Gurpreet parried the ball out only for it to land in medio Abung Meetei's feet whose try from top of box was blocked. The rebound off a defender fell in Nikhil's path who went over with his attempt. Around the quarter hour mark, Pune FC had TFA come close when Chinglensana's run from the left ended with a try from an acute into the side-net. The move was followed by Jermanjeet Singh heading a freekick wide across the goal. Midway through the half, Pune FC pushed ahead on a counter attack. Medio L.H. Lalrinawma Rinte did well to chest down a long ball and find Nikhil on the run. The skipper cut in and released a left footer from top of box that went wide. TFA then pushed ahead and created a close chance. Off a freekick earned from Rinte's foul inside the Pune FC half, Harpreet Singh's effort on first post had Pune FC 'keeper Avilash Paul fumble on his first take. However, a quick clearance by Ranjan Singh ahead of a lurking Jermanjeet kept out possible danger. At the other end, Haokip sent his long range shot from the left straight into the 'keeper. Into the final minutes of the half, substitute striker Manash Sarkar on for Rajak Nag went in dangerously for a header off a cross from Deepak. Keeper Avilash did well to block ahead of the striker putting the crowd on their feet. At the half-time mark, Haokip did well on the right cutting past Jermanjeet on the edge of box after Nikhil found him in clear only for his cross have no takers. Both teams went into the breather goalless. The second half was a similar story as both teams were creating moves equally. Seven minutes in, a brilliant throw-in by Nikhil found William who went on a run, before being checked on top of the box by Baidyanath Das. A minute later Subasish Bose had his shot go wide from the left. In the 57th minute, Nikhil's corner-kick created problems inside the TFA box. His effort forced the keeper come out and block. The high rising ended getting cleared off a melee that was created after both TFA and Pune FC players missed. A minute later, Nikhil screamed a 35-yard freekick past the first post. Haokip, meanwhile, did a lot of running and opening out the game, but none of the moves took Pune FC deep. TFA on the other hand were pushing the ball ahead on counter attacks creating few close chances. Midway through the half, Sanjeev Kumar's cross from the right had Biswajit Sardar fall just short despite Riyan's missed clearance in the penalty box as Pune FC survived the move. The Pune FC defense was kept on its toes in this phase of the game as TFA pushed. However, in the circumstances they emerged on top and were confident all throughout the game. Fifteen minutes from time, TFA gave Pune FC a close moment. Harpreet's freekick into the box earned a deflection, which Deepak diverted softly into the alert Avilash Paul. At the other end, Haokip bulldozed past the TFA defense only for his grounder to find the 'keeper. Into the final ten minutes, Pune FC 'keeper Avilash was at his best confidently moving out to to thwart Manash wide on the right outside the pnalty area. Three minutes from time, Rinte and Nikhil showed great robust running as they pushed ahead. First Nikhil and then Rinte pushed only for the move to be done in by the crowd of legs.
The draw for TFA was huge and disappointing for the turnout who had come prepared with drums hoping for an upset.--IBNS