Pune FC missed chances aplenty and were held to a 1-1 draw at home by United SC in an I-League Round 12 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Sunday.
Winger Nikhil Kadam (77th minute) gave Pune FC the lead before substitute Asif K. (82nd) equalised for the visitors.
The draw was Pune FC’s third in a row as they blew the chance to top the table and now move up to second place with 19 points from 10 games whereas the visitors dropped down to fifth place with 17 points.
Pune FC were dominant in the second half, however a few missed chances from close cost them.
Coach Mike Snoei made one change to the squad bringing in Lalrempuia Fanai in place of Srikanth Ramu in the starting XI.
The game began with Pune FC creating the first close chance inside 90 seconds. Playmaker Douhou Pierre set up Nikhil with a crisp through ball. The winger who came in from the left tried to control and slot home but his attempt was blocked by keeper Ishan Debnath.
Five minutes later, at the other end, Pune FC custodian Amrinder Singh saved a close range attempt from medio Souvik Chakrabarti. Moments later, striker Ranti Martins got into the clear on the right, but his cross in the face of the goal found no takers as the visitors tried to push.
After half chances at either end, Pune FC once again went close midway through the half. Medio Arata Izumi won the ball in the center and found striker Riga Mustapha on the right whose attempted cross for Nikhil on the run was intercepted by the keeper.
Five minutes later, defender Gurjinder Kumar got into the clear in the center. Controlling Mumtaz Akhtar’s lob, he smashed the ball goalwards from the edge of the box. Ishan once again produced a close save to deny Gurjinder.
At the other end, Amrinder showed brilliant reflex action as he saved Ranti’s low header from Eric Brown’s corner.
Pune FC once again went close in first half injury time. James Meyer, Lalrempuia Fanai and Douhou Pierre combined on the right before Douhou found Riga inside the box. The striker was however dispossessed inside the box.
Both sides went into the break failing to break the deadlock.
Three minutes after restart, Nikhil once again got himself into a good position on the left. The winger controlled Meyer’s long cross but volleyed it over with no opponent challenging.
Six minutes later, Arata got into the clear on the right near the touchline and lobbed the ball into the six-yard box. Riga, waiting inside, tried to beat the keeper with his first-time attempt but went over.
Moments later, Nikhil once again went close to open the scoring. The time his outside of the boot shot from the edge of the box on the right after Douhou’s lay off went agonisingly over.
Both sides kept pressing, but finishing in the final third let them down.
Into the last quarter of the game, Pune FC finally took the lead. Douhou’s defense splitting through ball sent Riga into the clear on the left. The striker tried to beat the advancing keeper but the ball was blocked. Nikhil, lurking in the area, capitalised and slotted home the stray ball from outside of the box.
Pune FC’s joy was short-lived as the visitors equalised five minutes later. After Amrinder had saved Ranti’s long-range shot, the ball fell for Souvik on the left inside the box. The medio found substitute Asif – on for Anupam Sarkar – unchallenged in front of the goal as he slotted home.
The hosts kept on pushing ahead in the final ten minutes of the game looking for the winner but United SC held on for the draw.
Man of the Match: Nikhil Kadam (Pune FC)