Pune FC slumped to their third loss in four games, as Salgaocar FC defeated them comfortably by a scoreline of 2-0, in an I-League encounter at the Balewadi stadium in Pune. A brace from Francis Fernandes, the first in the second minute, and then a header in the 45th minute, proved to be the difference between the two sides. Gurjinder Kumar received a red card for a blatant stamp on Josimar Martins, late in the second half.
For Pune FC, their recent wretched run continues, with 1 point in 4 games and 1 win in their past 7 matches at Balewadi
The hosts benched James Moga, who had taken ill before the game, replacing him with Jeje Lalpakhlua, who partnered Subhash Singh in attack. Salgaocar FC meanwhile welcomed back skipper Luciano Sobrosa in defense, benching Gabriel Obatola. Josimar Martins started upfront with Milagres Gonsalves.
The away side were on the offensive from the off, and stunned the stadium into silence, as early as the second minute, when Francis Fernandes slammed home a deep Randeep Singh cross at the far post, to give his side the lead.
Luciano Sobrosa almost doubled the advantage, when he connected with a ball into the box. However a Pune FC defender deflected the shot wide.
The shell-shocked Red Lizards found it difficult to get a foothold in the game, and Salgaocar continued to hold sway, with Josimar upfront posing several problems for Anas Edathodika and Chika Wali.
With John Wilkinson completely over-powering Mumtaz Akhtar and Douhou Pierre in midfield, the hosts found it tough to string a few passes together. It was no surprise then, that at the stroke of half-time, the away side doubled their lead, and it was none other than Francis Fernandes, who headed home at the far post, after Abhra Mondal failed to palm out Gabriel Obatola’s effort, out of the danger area.
In a bid to get some control over proceedings, Pune FC introduced James Moga in-place of Jeje. However he had no chance of making an impact before the referee blew the whistle for half-time.
Pune FC started the second half in a more positive manner, looking to play the ball long to Moga and then feeding on the scraps. While they managed to give more food for thought to the away side’s defenders, clear-cut chances were far and few in-between.
The closest they came to a goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half was when substitute keeper Vinay Singh misjudged a routine long-ball into the box, allowing Moga to get his header in. With the keeper completely off his line, Salgaocar coach David Booth was relieved to see the ball trickle wide of the goal.
With the hosts unable to grab the initiative, the match tempo started petering out and the most notable moment of the half came in the 87th minute, when Gurjinder Kumar was sent-off for stamping at Josimar, which sparked an ugly brawl between the two sides.
Eventually though, Booth’s side saw off the game without any more incidents, to take away all three points, which sees them move to 11th on the table, with 17 points.
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