The Red Lizards began their AFC Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw against the Myanmar side...
Pune FC played out a 2-2 draw with Nay Pyi Taw FC in their AFC Cup 2014 Group-H opener at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi in Pune on Wednesday.
The hosts took the lead through Mustapha Riga (9th minute) which as cancelled out by Lin Zaw (17th minute). After the break, substitute Khaing Htoo (85th minute) put his team in the lead before Douhou Pierre’s 88th minute equalizer earned a point for the Red Lizards.
Pune FC didn’t make any change to the side that beat Mohammedan Sporting in the I-League last week. They started better of the two sides as Thongkhosiem Haokip’s acrobatic effort went wide.
Their efforts were rewarded in the ninth minute when Pierre played a ball down to Haokip which was blocked and on the rebound, he managed to find Riga on the left. The Dutchman curled a delightful shot past the goalkeeper Van Lal Hruai into the far corner.
Thereafter the visitors had a couple of half chances with N Aung’s shot being saved by Amrinder Singh. But their persistence yielded results as they scored the equalizer in the 17th minute when a poor clearance from Dhanpal Ganesh was pounced on by midfielder Zaw Lin who made no mistake and scored from the edge of the box.
However Mike Snoei’s side regained control of the proceedings with Anthony seeing his attempt to lob the rival custodian being saved. The two teams went into the break with the score tied at 1-1.
Pune FC began the second half from where they left off and continued to press the opposition. Calum Angus’s free-kick was saved by Nay Pyi Taw goalkeeper and Haokip’s header from inside the box was cleared from the English centre-back’s delivery.
Amrinder was called into action just around the hour mark when he pulled off a diving save by Italian striker Michele Di Piedi.
Snoei then brought on Fanai Lalrempuia and Gurjinder Kumar for Srikanth Ramu and Zohmingliana Ralte respectively to shake things up.
Haokip and Anthony combined in the box to good effect, but Haokip’s shot from the left sailed over.
Pune continued to play better football and control the game but lacked a finishing touch.
Delgado Carlos Alberto came close with a free-kick from a dangerous position in the 82nd minute which just missed target by a few inches.
Nay Pwi Taw took a surprise lead in the 85th minute, when Khaing Htoo scored from inside the box as he shot past Amrinder Singh. This was after Di Piedi headed on goalkeeper Hruai’s long ball and Ranjan Singh’s missed clearance saw Htoo rush ahead and score from close.
Pune, to their credit, did not let the goal dampen their spirits and immediately rallied forces for an equalizer. It came from Pierre three minutes later, when he ran past a host of defenders on the left and powered an unstoppable shot from outside the box into the opposition goal.
The finish was frantic as both sides went in search of the winner. None of the teams found one though, and the match finished 2-2, with two goals coming in a span of five minutes.
Pune FC will probably feel they should have won the game, but should take pride in the fact that they found the late equalizer after going down, as a defeat would have been very damaging.
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