Derrick Pereira's side held on to a lead given to them by James Moga in the first half, and rise to third in the standings...
Pune FC fended off a late ONGC rally to register a 1-0 win in an I-League encounter at the Dr. Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi on Sunday.
James Moga got the all-important goal in the second minute of first half added time, after having missed several other opportunities to put his side ahead.
ONGC started with Kailash Patil in attack, with Eric Brown and Katsumi Yusa supporting him upfront. Sandeep Sangha and Hassan Odeola lined up in central defense.
Pune FC meanwhile gave Velington Rocha a rare start on the wing, while Mumtaz Akhtar also started in midfield.
The game started at a frenetic pace, with Brown testing Amrinder Singh in the Red Lizards’ goal with an attempt in the very first minute. However his effort took a deflection, allowing the custodian to hold on to the ball easily.
James Moga replied with an effort of his own at the other end, as he got to the end of a Mohanraj long ball, but he found TP Rehenesh in good form in-between the sticks.
Rocha, looking to make a good impression, then had the next opportunity, as he cut inside, and threatened to unleash a shot, but his effort was ultimately blocked by the rival defenders, while Izumi Arata’s ambitious follow-up went well-over the cross-bar.
Eric Brown then wasted an opportunity from a free-kick for his side, before Karma Tsewang and Mumtaz Akhtar tried their luck for Derrick Pereira’s side, but neither found the target with their shots.
James Moga then missed an absolute sitter, as a Rocha free-kick was headed into his direction by Chika Wali, but the South Sudanese striker failed to find the back of the net, from literally a yard out, handing a major reprieve to the hosts.
Odeola then strode out from defense and tested Amrinder with a shot from almost 40 yards out, which the Pune FC keeper dealt with adequately.
Rehenesh then denied the away side yet again, as he blocked Rocha’s effort, after the winger had gotten to the end of a James Moga flick, from a throw-in by N. Mohanraj.
ONGC then had a glorious chance of their own on a counter-attack to take the lead, after Rocha was robbed of the ball in midfield. Patil’s shot though, was blocked by Anas Edathodika, while Jatin Bisht then shot over, after the loose ball fell kindly for him.
Anas then dangerously dithered on the ball in his own half, but luckily for him, Katsumi Yusa failed to take advantage of his error.
Moga then wasted another opportunity, after being found by a cross by Karma.
However just before the end of the first half, James Moga finally converted one of the chances that fell his way, as Douhou found the striker with a cut-back, and the South Sudan International made no error in slotting the ball home, this time round.
That proved to be the last real bit of action in the half, as the referee eventually blew for half-time.
The away side almost doubled their lead in the very first minute after the re-start, as a Douhou shot, came off Rehenesh and hit the post, before being cleared away from danger.
ONGC though, tried to get back into the game, and Eric Brown came close to an equalizer in the 54th minute, but his attempt from 35 yards out was just wide of the far post.
David Lalrinuamana then got to the end of a free-kick into the box, however he shot wide, when free on the far post.
Arata and Moga then had chances to put some breathing space between themselves and the resurgent hosts, however neither were able to hit the target, giving ONGC hopes of completing a come-back.
Othallo Tabia then, squandered another opportunity, as a Douhou Pierre free-kick managed to evade everybody and reached the defender inside the box. However Tabia failed to apply the finishing touch, letting the ONGC defense off the hook.
They were almost made to pay for their profligacy, but Katsumi Yusa failed to apply the finishing touch on two opportunities that came his way soon after, while N. Mohanraj saved his side’s blushes in the 75th minute, as he made a goal-saving block on the attacking medio, to keep Pune FC’s lead intact.
Eric Brown then fluffed a chance on the volley, after getting behind the Red Lizards’ defense and evading both, Anas and Chika Wali.
The last few minutes of the game saw Pune FC defending deep in their half and looking to hold on to their advantage, while ONGC continued to apply pressure, in the hope of finding an equalizer.
Eventually though, the hosts ran out of time, as Derrick Pereira’s side held on for three precious points, which saw them re-claim the third spot on the table.
Pune FC now are on 40 points from 22 games, two points clear of Prayag United, who have also played two games more.
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