A regulation 2-1 victory for Bengaluru F.C over Pune F.C at the Tilak Maidan, ensured that the Blues sealed their place in the Semifinals of the 2014-15 Hero Federation Cup. The loss makes qualification extremely difficult for Pune, as they fall into third place in Group B with four points from three games.
Both teams field strong XI’s in important encounter
Anticipating that this would perhaps be a difficult encounter, Bengaluru F.C coach Ashley Westwood chose to field his strongest XI on paper. As a result, Thoi Singh and Robin Singh made a comeback as did left back Keegan Pereira for C.K Vineeth, Siam Hanghal and Chhuantea. Winger Beikhokhei Beingaichho and midfielder Darren Cladeira remained on the bench.
Pune F.C’s Moroccan head coach remained firm in his team selection, as Karim Bencherifa fielded a more attacking side as opposed to the side that drew with Mohun Bagan. Arminder Singh was in between the posts, and Ryuji Sueoka and Eric Brown were deployed in attack.
Pune FC XI: Amrinder (GK), Raju, Ralte, Luciano, Matthew, Arata (C), Ganesh, Lalramluaha, Eric, Haokip, Sueoka #PFCvBFC
— Pune Football Club (@PuneFC) January 5, 2015
Both teams begin first half tentatively
Realizing that it was an extremely important fixture, both Pune and Bengaluru decided to start slow, with both sides knocking the ball around, trying to get into a good rhythm. With the formations and philosophies of both sides completely different, it was relatively simple to anticipate the attacking patterns of both the sides. Pune’s lineup was built around captain Arata Izumi and Eric Brown, thus ensuring that the Red Lizards would attack from open play. Conversely, Bengaluru F.C relied on their set piece prowess. This was evident as all corners won by the Blues were taken by Eugeneson Lyngdoh as opposed to Josh Walker.
The first forty minutes saw the teams evenly matched and it seemed as though the first half would conclude with the scores tied at 0-0 till the Indian captain changed things around.
Sunil Chhetri’s double strike puts the Blues on top
As has been for many years, football games are generally won by a moment of genius. That moment of genius was provided by none other than the Bengaluru captain Sunil Chhetri. With approximately five minutes remaining, Sunil Chhetri’s brilliance came to the fore, as his side volley found its way past Pune custodian Arminder Singh, courtesy of a well worked corner taken by Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Ironically, this was Bengaluru F.C’s first shot on target.
For Pune, things got from bad to worse, as a horrific defensive error from Luciano Sabrosa and Matthew Gonsalves saw Sean Rooney with a one on one against goalkeeper Arminder Singh. Short of options, the Australian striker was brought down by Arminder inside the penalty box, prompting the referee to point to the penalty spot. Once again, captain Sunil Chhetri stepped up to slot the ball past the Pune keeper. Ashley Westwood managed a smile as both sides retired to the dressing rooms.
Pune come out all guns blazing
Pune F.C, probably fired up by Bencherifa’s half time talk, came out all guns blazing, as Arata Izumi and Eric Brown succeeded in pushing the Bengaluru defensive line back. Eric Brown, who had a terrible outing in the first half, attempted to make up for his errors in the second half. Attacking intent was also signaled by the Red Lizards, as they brought on Munmun Lugun for Matthew Gonsalves.
However, despite the tremendous pressure and probing by Pune, the brilliant defensive paring of John Johnson and Curtis Osano ensured that there was little work for Bengaluru custodian Ralte.
Pune pull one back as match concludes in a nail-biting finish
Both managers placed their cards on the table as all substitutions were made with a quarter of the game left. Westwood, shocked many and consequently signaled defensive intent, by withdrawing captain Sunil Chhetri and throwing on Chhuantea.
However, the defensive change failed to bear fruit, as Pune successfully pulled one back, courtesy of a fumble from Bengaluru keeper Ralte, as Thongkhosiem Haokip slotted the ball into the back of the net. The goal, against the run of play, ensured that all results were remotely possible in the final few minutes of the game.
The Haokip goal however, was a little too late, as the Blues successfully played out the final few minutes plus a five minute injury time to claim all three points with the scoreline reading 2-1 in favor of Bengaluru F.C.
The victory for the Blues means that they are the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the 2014-15 Hero Federation Cup. The victory as always will as always, be a major boost for the Bengaluru outfit, as Ashley Westwood will look to lead the club to its first Federation Cup.
The loss for Pune F.C means that Karim Bencherifa’s men are virtually out of the running for the spot in the semifinals. The Red Lizards face Salgaocar, which is quintessentially a quarterfinal of sorts. However, Pune will have to win to secure qualification to the semifinals, as a draw will be enough for Salgaocar to seal their semifinal berth, as both sides face off at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on the 6th of January.