I-League: Pune FC set for NE challenge
Pune FC is geared up to challenge Shillong Lajong FC in an encounter both would not prefer to blink after delightful openings in the I-League 2012-13.
Success for Pune FC, thus, rests on taking forward the confidence into the Round 2 game at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Shillong on Sunday.
In more ways than one the game expects to be high-voltage. Passionate fans, victory over fancied Dempo SC and playing first time at home is perfect setting for the hosts.
Pune FC, on their part, has checked in early with acclimatization as an obvious reason and will be hoping for an encore when they beat SLFC last season to break their north-east jinx.
Pune FC (3 points) is currently in second place on the I-League table owing to goal difference. In fact, the host's enjoy leader advantage sporting (+3) compared to Pune FC (+2).
Both sides, since last season, have made changes to their respective sides.
Upfront SLFC sports a new look. Trinidad and Tobago international and World Cupper Cornel Glenn, who scored a brace against Dempo, leads the line, supported by hard-working Brazilian Uilliams Souza, while former Pune FC striker Subash Singh completes the line-up.
Other new players for SLFC are ex-Salgaocar GK Vinay Singh in goal, ex-ONGC Defender Robin Gurung (who partners experienced Wailadmi Passah at the back), and also ex-Pailan Arrows midfielder Milan Singh.
The home side has also retained some of the core players from last season. North-Korean defender- midfielder Minchol Son has been promoted to captain, while Japanese attacking midfielder Taisuke Matsugane also brings experience.
Pune FC themselves have worked on their squad with the emphasis on youth apart from carefully choosing their foreign player quota.
Coach Mike Snoei, in fact, was pleased with the collective effort after Round-1, but expects more from his players.
"We are happy with the win. But it's just the start of the season and we have a long way to go," said the Coach.
Ahead of the game Pune FC has one worry - the unavailability of striker Raul Fabiani. The Equatorial Guinea striker serves a one-match suspension. Fabiani played a major role in the game against Md Sporting scoring twice and assisting once.
Raul's suspension will expect Pune FC to employ changes and in all certainty possible change in roles of a few players.
Medio Dhanpal Ganesh and winger Anthony D'Souza, meanwhile, began training, recovering from their respective injuries giving the Pune FC Coach options aplenty for his plans.
As a cover up Pune FC have drafted in left-back Y. Denechandra Meitei, who along with the rest provide options aplenty.
Experienced seasoned-campaigners like Arata Izumi, Venkatesh Shanmugam and Douhou Pierre added to talented youngsters in Amrinder Singh, S. Ranjan Singh, Dena, Ganesh, Nikhil Kadam and Thongkhosiem Haokip add enough firepower to the team.
For the record, Pune FC secured their first-ever win over Lajong in the same fixture last season. However, they trail in overall head-to-head with one win compared to Lajong's three in all competitions.
Drawn encounters have been the trend in the majority of clashes, but with new team and form Pune FC seek improving their script.
The encounter will interestingly hand Pune FC defender Zohmingliana Ralte and SLFC striker Subash Singh a chance to face-off against their former clubs respectively.
For Pune FC a win on the morrow will extend their unbeaten run to seven matches. The run so far (read six wins) is their longest winning run in I-League. The run includes carrying forward the 5 matches won consecutively at the end of last season 2012-13.
Shillong Lajong FC (1st; 3 pts): W
Pune FC (2nd; 3 pts): W
HEAD TO HEAD
24/03/13 - I-L - Pune FC 2-2 SLFC at Pune
29/12/12 - I-L - SLFC 1-2 Pune FC at Shillong
28/01/12 - I-L - SLFC 1-1 Pune FC at Shillong
22/10/11 - I-L - Pune FC 0-0 SLFC at Pune
26/03/11 - IFS - Pune FC 1-2 SLFC at Kolkata
20/03/10 - I-L - SLFC 1-0 Pune FC at Shillong
27/12/09 - FEC - SLFC 1-1 Pune FC at Guwahati
08/11/09 - I-L - Pune FC 1-1 SLFC at Pune
14/04/09 - I2D - SLFC 2-0 Pune FC at Gurgaon
(Posted on 28-09-2013)