FC Pune City beat Mumbai City 2-1 in the season’s first Maharashtra Derby in Pune on Wednesday. In what was a dramatic encounter, Balwant Singh gave Mumbai the lead in the 15th minute before Emiliano Alfaro’s brace in the second half gifted Pune an emphatic win.
Alexandre Guimaraes and Ranko Popovic fielded unchanged starting XIs to keep the winning combination intact. While Mumbai picked up their first win of the season against FC Goa in their previous match, Pune had thrashed defending champions ATK 4-1 in Kolkata.
The home side shaped up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Marcelinho operating in a free role just behind lone striker Emiliano Alfaro. Guimaraes fielded Mumbai in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Everton Santos playing in front of Balwant Singh, Sanju Pradhan and Achille Emana. Avinash Ruidas continued in his new left back position.
Mumbai commanded the proceedings in the opening minutes of the game with Pune taking a safe approach, exactly how they played against ATK in the previous match. The trio of Balwant, Santos and Emana imposed a constant threat to the Pune defence.
Mumbai’s positive outlook was rewarded with an opening goal within 15 minutes. Balwant received a long ball on the left flank, cut inside and launched a curling shot which went straight into the goal, beating Kamaljit Singh.
After conceding, Pune came back into the game strongly and attacked with greater intensity. Diego Carlos, Marcelinho and Alfaro looked to get on the ball more as the home side desperately searched for an equaliser.
Just minutes before the halftime, Marcelinho launched into a two-footed challenge on Everton Santos but surprisingly the referee ignored the incident and waved the play on.
Pune once again started dominating the proceedings as the second half resumed. At the 54th minute, Marcelinho dribbled past two defenders on the right flank and delivered a delicious cross for Alfaro. Unfortunately, the Uruguayan striker mistimed his run and failed to meet the ball.
Popovic brought on Kean Lewis at the hour mark in place of defensive midfielder Marcos Tebar, in an attempt to work the opposition defence better. Since Lewis' introduction, the home team took control of the game and launched a series of attacks in front of the Mumbai goal.
Pune finally got a chance to equalise in the 72nd minute when Raju Gaikwad clipped Diego Santos’ legs inside the box. Referee Raktim Saha promptly pointed towards the penalty spot. Alfaro calmly found the back of the net to restore parity in the game.
The Pune boss brought on Jonatan Lucca in the 77th minute in place of Isaac. Lucca was fielded in an advanced role to aid Alfaro and Marcelinho upfront.
Lucca influenced the proceedings well the last 10 minutes of the match as he managed to create quite a few chances in front of the Mumbai goal.
In the 93rd minute, Emiliano Alfaro scored the winning goal to claim full three points for his side at home. It was a swift counter-attack from Pune which saw Diego Carlos running down the right flank. Carlos found Alfaro to his left in front of the goal and squared the ball onto the path of the Uruguayan who had no qualms about putting the ball away to score the match-winner.