Pune FC defeated Kitchee SC 2-0 in the midweek in their final AFC Cup group H tie and bowed out of the competition on a high. They finished third and most importantly, picked four points against the Hong Kong champions who qualified as winners of the group.
“Let us start with saying that this is a fantastic moment for the club. We cannot deny that not only for me but for the team and for everybody. If you take four points from the number one in the group, by far the best team, then this is a very nice moment of our club, Not only for us, for marketing and for everybody.
“The game was live on television in Honk Kong. Football is important and it’s a very good broadcast in Hong Kong. I’m happy and also a little bit proud because it is also the first win in international football in the history of Pune FC. Pride and honour was what we wanted to fight for.”
The former Panathinaikos assistant coach was impressed with Anas Edathodika in particular by taking the mantle to lead the defense in the absence of Calum Angus who was suspended for the tie.
“Anas was fantastic and he is back in business. He had a few difficult injuries, gave his arm band back to me because he wanted to fully focus on his game again. He was the real man of the match. I like the midfield also of Ganeshan (Dhanpal) and Mumtaz Akhtar. It was more of an effort from the whole group.
“Because Douhou and Calum were not there who are my biggest foreigners in the group, we showed that we can work, fight and we showed something different, we always get the compliment ‘Ah it was nice coach with pressing, dominance’. Now I am happy that we fought and we took a 2-0 win against this team.”
Both goals were scored by Zohmingliana Ralte from set-pieces but Pune FC didn’t dominate the proceedings as they usually do.
“You are right. With crosses from Anthony D’Souza, we can do better and but the funny thing is if you see how much we train in set-pieces, then suddenly in this game we were so dangerous with it. I’m happy for Ralte because he came from far, and now scored two fantastic goals.
“You’re right as we faced some difficult moments in the game, but then it is nice to see that the boys keep on fighting. (Salam) Ranjan played against a Spanish international and he has come from the academy last year. He didn’t even play one minute in the I-League earlier and now with almost 20 games in the first team, with five or six international games he is up there.
“You will see Ranjan next year so much better. Amrinder Singh, Lalrem Puia will all be much better next year because of this experience.”
On being asked about the defensive tactics employed by Snoei, he chose to highlight the good work by his defense in keeping a clean-sheet.
“We kept a clean-sheet against them. I have to give a big compliment to my defense. (Mirjan) Pavlovic was not good but he worked really hard and there it starts. But with our football you will not see too many clean-sheets. We try to play with pressing; we try to play with overlaps. Initially we kept clean-sheets and everybody told me that our football was not fantastic and we had a lot of points.
“But I’m happy with the result to answer your question. Amrinder proved that he is the very important goal keeper, Sometimes you have to prove it, It’s not difficult in the I-League but he must prove it on an International level. There is more pressure on (Mustapha) Riga and the coach. I always tell them, ‘Common guys, there is no pressure on you, you develop, you come from the academy.’ I like to win and I hate losing.”
Interestingly Pune FC picked four points against the I-League champions, Bengaluru FC this season and did the same with the Hong Kong winners too.
“I hope that everybody realises that when we play against a team that want to play football, we take four points as against Bengaluru. We missed a big chance in the end, otherwise we would have won against them by one-or-two goals; same with Kitchee also but with a little luck.
“We play much better against teams who want to play football not against teams who sit deep. Our team must improve, also we should also play a bit less offensive, smarter and this is something maybe for later. This is something we can’t change now.
“I like football. I would like to see Douhou in a certain role in midfield and I am going to finish the season with him. Monday he is going to play against Dempo. Douhou is not a good defensive midfielder in the playmaking role. Puia can be good but he got kicked on the ankle and is already out for four weeks.”
Snoei hailed the victory and mentioned that it would boost their confidence ahead of their tie against Dempo SC.
“It always gives a push to your confidence and also gives a good history for a club. We are a young club, we are only from 2007. Now we can say this is our first win in international football. So it’s good for Peninsula, it’s good for the promotion of the club that we have a nice win. And in the meantime it’s also good for me and the players."