Pune: An enthralling game of attacking football which culminated in a 1-0 win for the home side saw Pune FC jump to the top of the Hero I-league table after the Round 8 game against Royal Wahingdoh at the Balewadi Stadium in Pune.
The game which promised to dish out an attacking brand of football did live up to its billing, but the scoreline does only little justice to the game-play.
The visitors were the first to trouble the goalkeeper courtesy an early free kick. Godwin Franco cheekily slid the ball from under the wall, but straight into Amrinder Singh’s hands who handled it with ease. The home team, however, failed to trouble the custodian, Nikhil Bernard, owing to some rock-solid defending and a few crucial interventions from Nigerian defender – Loveday Okechukwa.
The Red Lizards were eventually able to break the deadlock in the 27th minute. A perfectly weighted long ball met Nikhil Kadam at the edge of the box. His neat first touch gave him a moment to assess his surroundings. A cleverly squared ball then fell into Haokip’s stride who slotted the ball past a hapless Nikhil Bernard with the outside of his shoe.
Minutes later the match witnessed a controversial moment. As Kim Song Yong began to surge in the box, he appeared to have been clipped by Mathew Gonsalves. The referee took some time before deciding that Kim was already off balance before being touched by Mathew Gonsalves and the play resumed.
Buoyed by the goal, the home side continued their attacking run with goal scorer Haokip taking on defenders twice. On one occasion he beat a couple of defenders, before trying to curl a shot into the far corner only to be denied by the keeper. Moments later Haokip sent a defense splitting pass towards Prakash Thorat. For a moment it appeared that the ball had goal written all over it but Prakash Thorat somehow managed to shoot the ball wide from point blank range.
Santosh Kashyap’s half time pep talk seemed to have brought a renewed vigour in his team, who appeared to have come out to snatch the victory from their host’s jaws. This was evident from the fact that they pushed the Pune side on the back foot right from the start.
The visitors were denied two goals towards the end. First when Reagan Singh’s shot from a rather acute angle hit the upright and the second was a spectacular 35-yard shot from the Wahingdoh captain Densill Theobald which hit the cross bar.
The Red Lizards would be proud of the defensive performance that they were able to put together as they sit pretty atop the league table.
Hero of the Match – Thongkhosiem Haokip (PFC).