I-League: Pune FC 2-1 East Bengal – Advantage Salgaocar As Red And Gold Brigade Lose Ground In The Title Race
The loss to Pune FC means that East Bengal finds themselves five points behind league leaders Salgaocar SC with six games to go…
With Salgaocar having won on Sunday against Churchill Brothers, East Bengal desperately needed a victory going into the game in order to keep things in their own hand with regards to the title race.
However a defeat to Pune FC at the Balewadi Sports Complex translates into East Bengal hoping for some results going in their favour, coupled with them winning their rest of the matches in order to win the I-League from herein.
Goals from striker Mandjou Keita (31') and medio Shanmugam Venkatesh (63') cancelled East Bengal’s Uga Okpara’s 17th minute strike to gain full points for Pune FC.
The win took Pune FC to the top-half of the table, moving into seventh position (26 points), while East Bengal remained with 41 points on the third spot.
It was the home side who dominated the play and threatened from the word go. In the 15th minute, the Reds had Venkatesh’s cross from the right with Subhash Singh and Arata Izumi going for the header but goalkeeper Sandip Nandy managed to keep them in check.
Against the run of play, East Bengal, from their third corner scored. Skipper Saumik Dey took the corner from the left flag, which landed dangerously among the Pune FC defence and rolled on to an Uga Okpara, who finished the ball with ease.
Lester Fernandes led the fight back time as on one instance, his cross had Keita narrowly miss connecting a header. But then minutes later a combined move involving Othallo Tabia and Keita saw Lester let-fly a stiff attempt on goal into the ‘keeper’s hands.
With the game past the half hour mark, Pune FC found the equalizer when J Prasad from the left sent in a cross that ended up in Keita’s possession and a one-on-one situation with the East Bengal keeper.
As Nandy moved out to evade the situation, Keita tried to lob, but the ball took flight. The former Salgaocar striker using his presence of mind did well to shield Nandy as the ball came down and won the battle as the ball went off his body and foot into the goal.
With the score settled at 1-1, East Bengal went all out. Aussie striker Tolgay Ozbey had a dangerous header off a Syed Rahim Nabi cross to make Subrata Paul stretch.
Pune FC survived a close moment in the 54th minute as Orgi Penn ran the ball to Tolgay, who in turn chipped over defender Lamine Tamba to Baljit Sahni however as Subrata Paul dived to collect, the former JCT midfielder missed as well to let go of a good chance.
The winner came after the hour mark when Subhash outsmarted Nirmal Chhetri on the left and played the ball to a waiting Keita inside the penalty bock. Keita tried on goal, which defender Okpara partially blocked with a slide. As the ball rolled goalward, Venkatesh did well to push the ball in.
Towards the end, Tamba did well to block a Penn shot from inside the box to cap PFC’s memorable win.
Keita was named man of the match for his goal and assist and did his former club Salgaocar a favour in the title race. The victory was a first this season for Pune FC against a Top-3 team in the league.
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