After an emphatic 5-2 win over Shillong Lajong FC, Pune FC were all set to take on Mumbai FC in the high-intensity Maharashtra Derby. The visitors were desperately in need of a win to get off the mark and enter the top half of the table. Their wait still continues as Pune FC were once again on top of their game to complete a clinical 3-2 win against Mumbai.
The victory also saw Karim Bencherifa’s boys in red top the I-League table after a long time. Foreign recruits Luciano Sobrosa, Darko Nikac and Sueoka Ryuji were the goalscorers for the home side while Joshimar Martins and Mohammed Rafi scored for the visitors.
Martins cancels Sobrosa’s opener, Darko puts Pune FC ahead
The Maharashtra Derby kicked off with Pune holding the upper hand. The hosts got into the act immediately with some brilliant sprints down the pitch and some early chances at the Mumbai goal. In the 8th minute, Pune FC were awarded a corner. Edgar Marcelino floated in a long corner which the Mumbai defenders failed to clear. Luciano Sobrosa, who was waiting near the left post, received the cross and attempted a flat shot at goal. The ball deflected off a Mumbai FC defender and the ball crashed into the back of the net, giving the hosts an early lead.
Just four minutes later, Cletus Paul of Mumbai FC took a long, deep throw-in which Amrinder Singh failed to collect. Taking advantage of the Pune FC keeper’s error, Joshimar Martins tapped it home to equalize.
Pune responded in kind. In the 30th minute, the home team won another set piece through a corner. Another deep corner from Marcelino found Darko Nikac waiting at the far post. The Croatian forward made no mistake in heading the ball past the Mumbai FC keeper to get his team back in the lead.
2nd half: Pune endure physical onslaught to take the victory
The visitors made a strong start to the second half, creating chances through throw-ins and corners. But the Pune FC defense unit was always on their toes to keep Mumbai FC at bay. Sobrosa, Matthew Gonsalves, Raju Yumnam and Dhanpal Ganesh were all outstanding on Sunday night. A word of praise for the goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, who made a couple of bold charges and punches to keep the ball away.
The next 45 minutes of the game also saw some fierce, ugly tackles on both ends. One such tackle was made on Mumbai FC skipper Climax Lawrence and he was stretchered off in the 57th minute. Few minutes later, Pune FC forward Haokip Thongkhosiem was fouled by Ashutosh Mehta and this led to another chapter of on-field tussles. A sad spectacle for the I-league indeed.
Ryuji scores third for Pune FC
The last 15 minutes of the game witnessed a lot of action inside the Mumbai FC goal area. Karim Bencherifa brought in young forward Nikhil Kadam and the 20 year-old Kolhapur lad was proving effective straightaway for Pune. In the 84th minute, his grounded cross from the left found Ryuji Sueoka at the far post. Ryuji took a quick shot which was deflected into the goal by Justin Stephan to give Pune FC an unassailable 3-1 lead.
Four minutes later, Mohammed Rafi from Mumbai gave the home side a scare through a brilliant header off a corner, making the score 3-2. With 4 minutes of added time to be played the Pune FC forwards put in their best efforts to score goals but Nidhin Lal, the Mumbai FC custodian, made sure that no more goals were conceded. Pune won the match 3-2 and have now placed themselves at the top of the table. Ryuji Sueoka was adjudged the Hero of the match.
“We were well prepared and we shouldn’t have lost this match. The players were instructed to mark the forwards, mainly Darko and Sueoka. Our defending during corners was not upto the mark which cost us two goals. Some calls did not go our way and there were challenges which deserved a red card but were given only yellow. The next match will be very crucial for us.”
– Khaleed Jameel, coach, Mumbai FC.
“It is a good win and I’m very proud of my boys. Never easy to play against Mumbai FC as they play physical and defensive. Despite being under pressure, we controlled the midfield completely and kept creating chances for the forwards. No one could take away these 3 points from us looking at the quality of football we played.”
– Karim Bencherifa, coach, Pune FC.