ISL 2017-18: Emiliano Alfaro brace rescues one point for FC Pune City in final league-stage clash
The Uruguayan converted two penalties as his side's clash against Delhi Dynamos FC finished at 2-2.....

FC Pune City struck late to rescue a point against the Delhi Dynamos as their Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the national capital finished all square at 2-2. Kalu Uche's brace (10' and 34') had the hosts in front twice in the game but the visitors replied both times with a double from Emiliano Alfaro (13' and 86').

Miguel Angel Portugal one again rang in the changes like he had done against Mumbai City FC in the previous match, making as many as six changes to the side that won 5-1. Kalu Uche, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Mohammad Sajid, Matias Mirabaje and Nandhakumar were the only survivors from the XI who started in that win with Arnab Das Sharma coming in between the sticks while young midfielder Simranjeet Singh was handed his first start of the season in the right-back position.

Ranko Popovic on the other hand made four changes to the XI that started in the 4-0 thrashing against FC Goa with Marcelinho making way for Emiliano Alfaro. The Uruguayan took his customary position up top with Marko Stankovic playing behind him. Baljit Sahni came in for Sarthak Golui in the right-back position while Isaac Vanmalsawma and Manuel Jesus Toribio replaced Diego Carlos and Jewel Raja.

With confidence flowing from their wins in the last two matches, it was the hosts who started the match more confidently with Lallianzuala Chhangte making a nuisance of himself on the left-flank. His perseverance bore early rewards when he was adjudged to have been brought down by Aashique Kuruniyan inside the box in the 10th minute. Kalu Uche stepped up from the spot and made no mistake to make it 1-0 for the hosts.

Delhi’s lead would only last three minutes with referee Matthew Rowell awarding another penalty, this time to the visitors when Simranjeet was adjudged to have tugged at Rafael Lopez during a Pune City corner. It was Alfaro who took the penalty for the visitors and like Uche, the Uruguayan was on point to level up the tie.

Manuel Arana then thumped a thunderbolt of a strike from the edge of the box which gave Pune custodian Vishal Kaith no chance as it nestled into the top corner but the referee had blown his whistle for an earlier handball by Uche.

However, there would no doubts about the veracity of the goal minutes later when Pune defender Rafa Lopez suffered a horrible slip at the edge of the box, allowing Nandhakumar to steal possession and feed Uche for a simple tap in. The Nigerian was never going to miss from that position as he notched up his 13th goal of the season.

Simranjeet would then strike the crossbar after making a surging run from the right as the hosts took a one-goal lead into the half-time interval.

Vishal Kaith showed both the good and bad to his game within the space of a few minutes in the second half. First he charged out rapidly and bravely to deny Chhangte after the winger found himself one on one with the goalkeeper. Then, he failed to collect a simple header from Chhangte after Arana had provided an excellent cross. Luckily for the Pune keeper, the ball rebounded against the post to allow him to collect it at the second time of asking.

Arnab Das spilled the ball similarly at the other end but fortunately for the Dynamos custodian, Simnrajeet was able to block Alfaro’s shot from the resulting loose-ball. Towards the 70th minute, Nandhakumar came close to adding a third for the hosts. However, his deflected shot from a tight angle just crept inches wide of the far-post.

The hosts were comfortable with their lead for the most part before the referee awarded the third penalty of the night to the visitors in the dying minutes. Alfaro went down in the box after being tripped by Mohd Sajid and stepped himself once again to bag his second of the night from the spot. The result means the Dynamos finish the season in eighth place with 19 points from their 18 games while Pune are second for the time-being with 30 points.






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