Derrick Pereira's side got the better of the home team, with an excellent display in the second half...
Pune FC finally snapped out of their poor recent form, as they defeated Mumbai FC 3-0 in the ‘Maha derby’, at the Balewadi stadium in Pune.
James Moga proved to be the difference with two goals in the second half, while Izumi Arata sealed the three points with a pile driver in the 84th minute. The match was also marred by an ugly scuffle between Derrick Pereira and Abhishek Yadav, with the duo exchanging harsh words and almost coming to blows towards the end of the first half, after the Pune FC coach was incensed by an elbow thrown by Justin Stephen at Chika Wali, which flattened the player.
In a bid to stem their poor recent run, Derrick Pereira made as many as half a dozen changes to the side, with the likes of Abhra Mondal, Mumtaz Akhtar and Gurjinder Kumar amongst others, giving way to Shahinlal Meloly, Caitano Costa and N. Mohanraj.
Mumbai FC meanwhile started with the tried and tested duo of Yusif Yakubu and ND Opara upfront, while Haroon Amiri and Justine Stephen started in the heart of their defense.
While the hosts started the brighter of the two teams, it was Pune FC that had the first real chance of the game, as a loose ball fell kindly into the path of Khangthang Paite. The winger, who started the season in great goal-scoring fashion, spooned his effort well over, this time round.
15 minutes into the game, it was the Red Lizards who yet again had a chance to take the lead, but Douhou Pierre was unable to guide his effort goal-wards, after Moga found him with a cross into the box.
Derrick Pereira’s side then started enjoying a monopoly of possession, and James Moga as well as Jeje Lalpekhlua had presentable chances of their own, but both the strikers failed to hit the target.
However Mumbai FC continued to be a threat on the counter, and with four of the away side’s back five having been changed from their last game, there were several moments of uncertainty at the back, with ND Opara almost profiting from two such errors in a minute.
First a communication gap between Mohanraj and Shahinlal meant Opara crept in and had a shot at the far post, which blazed over. With the very next move though, the former Churchill Brothers striker was guilty of missing a sitter, as a Yakubu cross found its way across the goal-mouth towards his strike partner, who shockingly tapped wide, with the goal at his mercy.
The Red Lizards continued to look for Moga, hoping to play off him and peg Mumbai back. The striker on one such instance won a corner which Douhou played short to Paite, whose eventual effort was just wide of the mark.
Izumi Arata too had a chance shortly afterwards, but he too failed to test Luis Barreto.
A real moment of controversy came close to half-time as Justine Stephen flattened Chika Wali close to the touch-line, leading to a furious Derrick Pereira marching towards the assistant. Abhishek Yadav then came marching towards his opponent’s coach and gestured threateningly at him. It looked like the pair would come to blows, until players sensibly parted the duo. The referee bizarrely decided that none of them deserved a booking, with the two sides eventually going into half-time at 0-0.
The away side came close to the opener within minutes of the re-start, as a Douhou corner hit Yadav and almost went inside. To Khalid Jamil’s relief, the ball went just over, kissing the bar on its way out.
Derrick Pereira’s men though were not to be denied, as Paite’s cross found Moga, who towered over the Mumbai FC defender and gave his side the lead in the 56th minute.
This meant that Mumbai had no choice but to go all-out in attack, and this left them susceptible on the counter. On one such foray forward, Douhou found Moga with a defense splitting ball. The South Sudanese striker calmly controlled the ball and slotted it past Luis Barreto in the 71st minute.
Izumi Arata then sealed the points in the 84th minute, as a corner was cleared only towards the midfielder, who stuck the ball sweetly from outside the box, and found the top corner, sparking wild celebrations from Derrick Pereira and his staff on the bench.
The goal knocked whatever fight was left in the home side, with Khalid Jamil’s boys unable to create any opportunities of note in the remainder of the game.
Eventually the referee drew the game to a close, with the win seeing Pune FC rise back to 4th in the standings with 33 points, while Mumbai FC remain static at 6th.
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