PUNE: Hero I-League leaders Pune FC were forced into the goalless draw by Goan visitors Dempo Sports Club at the Balewadi Stadium that saw a scramble at the top with Bengaluru FC sneaking in to the second positionon Saturday.

The draw meant Pune FC could still hold on to the No 1 position with 11 points, while Dempo SC was at No 6 with 7 points.

Pune FC began the match in their bid to consolidate position atop the league table at the Balewadi Sports Complex Stadium, but 90 minutes failed to break the ice.

Both teams fielded changed lineups—the most notable being the return of Anas Edathodika for Pune FC to bolster their shaky defense. Edgar Marcelino’s absence meant a start for Lalramluaha in the attack.

On the other hand, Goans handed Germanpreet Singh, their goal scorer from the previous game, a rare start.

The Dempo side which had scored just 4 goals from their opening four games looked more likely to threaten the goalmouth as the home team was pushed on the backfoot right from the start of the game. Majority of the goal bound threat came from the visitors’ foreign contingent in the form of the telepathic linkup play between Carlos Hernandez and their star Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey.

The Goans got their first chance in the sixth minute as a miscalculated back pass fell graciously in the Australian’s path whose strong shot was parried away by Amrinder Singh with ease. The home defense continued to struggle as minutes later Carlos Hernandez’s defense splitting pass fell into Ozbey’s stride but a timely intervention from the diving Ishfaq Ahmed averted the danger, but only momentarily. The ball which was not cleared convincingly again fell into Ozbey’s path who shot the ball wide to the home side’s relief.

The Red Lizards’ bad start had just gone worse as Darko Nikac who appeared to have twisted his ankle had to be brought off in the 18th minute.

Having seen his tactics fail, the Pune gaffer tried to spruce up the attack. With the introduction of Fanai Lalrempua, Karim Bencherifa tried a three-pronged attack, however, the midfielders continued to struggle as they failed to put in a meaningful pass.

The otherwise flamboyant Pune FC attack looked rather toothless in the absence of Marcelino – the crafty Portuguese attacker. The midfield battle continued in the second half as either side failed to break the deadlock.

The only scare for the home side came late into the second half. A 35-yard long shot from Lenny Rodrigues caught Amrinder Singh off-guard. He had to make an acrobatic save to push the ball out for a corner.

Having failed to register a single shot on goal, the home side was fortunate to have come away with a point. The only positive for the home side was their stubborn defense. The tightly knit unit worked efficiently to contain the visitor’s onslaught. The second successive clean sheet would only add to their confidence.

Hero of the Match – Arata Izumi (PFC)

-I-League Media

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