It wouldn’t be unfair to state that FC Pune City should have taken at least a two goal lead in the first half. The manner in which they found spaces in the opposition half and got the Chennaiyin defenders to make last ditch tackles and clearances was a testament of their dominance.
Diego Carlos was arguably the pick of the Pune attackers as he cut in from the left at will and constantly harried Inigo Calderon. Part of the problem was that both Dhanapal Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh were ineffective in the middle of the park as Marcos Tebar and Jonatan Lucca ran the show.
The manner in which they switched play or played through-balls towards Carlos or Emiliano Alfaro, it would open up a lot of space.
It is not that Chennai didn’t attack in the opening 45 minutes. Jeje Lalpekhlua should have scored from a free header inside the box while Rene Mihelic would have nightmares about the poor penalty-kick which Vishal Kaith kept out.
For Pune’s protests on the legitimacy on the penalty, it was certainly a foul by Adil Khan as he brought down Gregory Nelson.
One thing which Pune can complain about is the fact that Ganesh wasn’t sent-off towards the end of the first half. After being booked for a foul on Lucca, he made at least another three tackles which should have earned him a second booking. The refereeing once again made the difference.
Interestingly, Chennaiyin chose not to substitute him probably because of the height factor as Pune has tall players in almost every position and defending from set-pieces would have been an issue.
Six minutes into the second half and Pune lost Tebar as the former Real Madrid was substituted in what looked like a groin injury. In came Baljit Sahni to fill in as a right-back while Adil was moved to the central midfield.
This move allowed Chennaiyin to get back in the game. All of a sudden, Ganesh and Bikramjit Singh were seeing more of the ball and with Raphael Augusto’s introduction after the hour mark; Chennai began to probe in the Pune half.
Pune chose to concede possession and allowed Chennai to take the initiative. They did have a great chance to take the lead when Jerry Lalrinzuala’s back-pass was intercepted by Carlos but an alert Karanjit arrived in time to avert the danger.
The visitors complained of Thoi Singh’s challenge on Isaac Vanmalsawma in the move which lead to the goal. However, much to their disappointment, Thoi, who was average in almost the entire game, put in a fine tackle to win the ball and pass it for Augusto. The Brazilian did ever so well to find Nelson who pulled the ball back and slide the ball past Kaith.
Unlike previous games, Chennai held on to their slender lead and picked up three crucial points against a strong outfit. For Pune, this is the second game running in which they couldn’t convert their chances and allowed the opponent to come back.
Ranko Popovic would rue the fact that his team dropped three points but the bigger issue would be how serious is Tebar’s injury and by when can he back in action?