Pune FC made history defending the Under-20 I-League title in Jamshedpur. The title gave Pune FC the distinction of being the first team to win back-to-back titles.
Needing a win to emerge outright winners, Pune FC settled the issue with a dominating 3-0 victory over East Bengal FC at the JRD Sports Complex, Jamshedpur, on Sunday.
Right wing back Henry Monsang was the hero for the Maharashtra side with a brace (38th and 53rd minute), while playmaker F. Lalrempuia (89th) scored right at the death as Pune FC signed off in style.
The win was Pune FC’s fourth in the Final Phase of the league and helped them finish with 13 points. Hosts Tata Football Academy (TFA), who were waiting for a slip-up by Pune FC, beat Mohun Bagan 2-0 and finished runners up with 11 points.
In a tense encounter, Pune FC began cautiously. East Bengal, in the bargain, took charge with the early exchanges and created a couple of chances through Anirban Chatterjee and Indrajeet Paul going close. At the other end, winger Nikhil Kadam and striker Thongkhosiem Haokip combined only to fall short.
The opponents continued pressing and Pune FC waited for their moment. Midway through the half, playmaker Abung Meetei went on a great solo run on the left before turning and slipping the ball to Haokip who hit wide from six-yards out.
After some half chances at either end, Pune FC took the lead seven minutes from the break. Off back-to-back corners, Nikhil's delivery from the right flag was headed home by Henry at the far end. The defender did well to send his header over keeper Santadip Kanjilal to the far corner.
Into the final minutes of the half, Pune FC missed chances to double their lead after Nikhil hit his grounder straight into the ‘keeper and Henry went over from 10-yards out after controlling Haokip’s cross.
The defending champions took their one goal lead into the breather.
The second half was a different story as Pune FC went for the jugular. After pushing ahead continuously and dominating proceedings for long periods they doubled their lead eight minutes in as defender Henry completed his brace.
Left-back Denechandra Meitei swung in a cross to right. Henry controlled the pass, cut past a defender and took a shot. The power-packed effort beat the keeper, hit the inside of the far post and crossed the goalline after bouncing off the other vertical.
Minutes later, Pune FC had to bring in substitute Anuj Negi after Denechandra was left with an open gash on his forehead as Amit Singh's hand accidently made contact in a one-on-on header.
With the heat taking its toll on the players, Pune FC began dominating the midfield as the game slowed down.
East Bengal were locked in their own half for long periods and didn’t do much to create chances. Substitute Sonu Kumar had two long range attempts go wide midway through the half.
Two minutes from the end, playmaker Lalrempuia got his name on the scoresheet sealing the championship for Pune FC. Substitute R. Shivram’s cross in from the right was chested down by substitute Deepak Kumar into Lalrempuia’s path who did well to place it past the helpless ‘keeper.
Pune FC was also declared the Most Disciplined Team of the championship bringing an end to a brilliant campaign.