Ranko Popovic has now seen his side been reduced to 10 men for two games in a row and the Serbian tactician was clearly not happy about it following his side’s 3-1 loss to table-toppers Bengaluru FC.
When asked if Baljit Sahni’s red-card in the second-half was the turning point of the match, the FC Pune City tactician was clear that it had played a big influence in the game.
“Looking like this, because until this point they (Bengaluru) didn’t have any serious action in the game. They controlled the game, they played well and we know that. They scored because we leave a little bit more space for them. Like I told you before the match, this team has been together for longer and they have good players. We want to play in a similar style,” he said in reply.
The Serbian was of the opinion that winger Diego Carlos’ miss early in the second half had played a far greater role in Pune’s loss.
“Until this point (Baljit’s red) I think we controlled the game, we were very clever and smart and I think the key moment of the game was Diego’s chance for 2-0 before this. If Diego scored that goal the game would have been very different,” he stated.
Though the Pune boss refused to blame the referee for the loss, he did say that the official had played a major role in influencing the result of the game.
“I don’t like to commentate on referees performances. In the last game against Jamshedpur, the referee was terrible. Today he was perfect in the first half. But in the second-half he started giving us cards. I have no problem with the cards if he gave the same punishment for similar offences,” Popovic remarked.
“Diego was tackled with two feet from behind but we were given a throw-in. Last free-kick for us, the players told me that it was a penalty. He gave a foul on the goalkeeper but nobody touched the goalkeeper. It is all a part of the game. He is not responsible for us losing the game but he had a big influence,” he added.
The Serbian revealed that star player Marcelinho had been down with fever for the past two days and it was his plan to bring him on for the last 15 minutes of the game.
“Isaac went out injured and Kean coming on wasn’t enough. Marcelinho was on the bench due to a fever from the past two days and I put him on the bench to protect him for the last 15 minutes of the match. But I could not bring him on due to the injury and red card,” he said.
Popovic expressed displeasure at the way the game had been officiated.
“I want to see these two things – the penalty and the red card. I don’t know how this is permitted. We are on a counterattack and a substitute kicks and extra ball onto the pitch to stop the game and they are not sanctioned for this.
“Referee is watching and not doing anything,” he said.
Despite his grievances with the officials, the Pune boss was full of praise for the opposition.
“I want to congratulate Bengaluru for the win. This (referee errors) had nothing to do with them and they played well.”
The Serbian however pointed out winger Kean Lewis for letting his team down on the day after being brought on in the second-half. Popovic was asked why Emiliano Alfaro was brought off in the second-half.
“At this moment I wanted to take off Kean but I cannot put a foreign player for a domestic player. Kean today did nothing for our team. We are losing as a team but he has to think and to do a little bit more.
“Alfaro has been playing through a problem for the past three or four games and that’s why I had to take him off. When you are losing as a team, you have to do everything to help out the team and Kean did not do that. That is why I had to change,” he replied, delivering a scathing criticism of Kean.