FC Pune City got off to a bad start in their bid to reach their first ever semifinals of the ISL as they lost out 1-0 to rivals Mumbai City on Monday. Matias Defederico scored the winner for the visitors as both the sides lacked vision in the final third with Mumbai's stunning winner coming against the run of play. The Blues registered their first victory on an opening day after losing out on both the previous occasions.
Pune City, in their famous Orange kit, began the game in a 4-3-3 formation with the experienced Edel in goal shielded by Narayan Das and Rahul Bheke on the flanks and Eduardo Ferreira alongside the experienced Gouramangi Singh as the centre backs.
Pune's captain Bruno Arias on the night started alongside Lenny Rodrigues and Jonatan Lucca in midfield. With Eidur Gudjohnsen ruled out of ISL with an injury, Jesus Tato started as the sole striker with Gustavo Oberman on the right wing alongside Pune's local favourite, Arata Izumi in an advanced role from the left.
The Stallions started the game well and completely ran the show for the first 20-25 minutes of the match. But call it a repeat of previous season’s showing or inexperience of this squad in ISL as Pune City failed to capitalise on their domination at the start as it helped Mumbai to come back into the game and secure a win in what was a typical ‘smash and grab’-winner.
What went wrong for FC Pune City
Pune lacked leadership on the pitch and off it too as manager, Antonio Habas was not present on the touchline because of a four-match ban he received last season. The team at times looked devoid of ideas as the defence played too many long balls without being under any immediate threat.
The Stallions failed to get a hold of the game also as the midfield lost possession far too many times as they lost the midfield battle against Pronay Halder and Kristian Vadocz. Pune City were unable to find any rhythm in the game as many players lost the possession needlessly.
Bruno Arias, the experienced leader of Pune had an off day as he failed to win second balls and also missed out on many interceptions. He was also at fault for Mumbai's winner as he failed to track the run of Defederico. Lenny Rodrigues too looked lost in midfield as he lost the possession far too many times and failed to do the basics right. It might be safe to say that FC Pune City lost their opening game as they were the second best in the midfield department.
Gouramangi Singh, meanwhile, dinked the ball forward on a number of occasions aimlessly as Mumbai City looked comfortable defending against Pune’s long balls. Rahul Bheke was always not at his usual best as he struggled defensively and offered less going forward. From the game it was evident that Mumbai had a defined strategy against the hosts and played according to manager Guimaraes’ tactics. Whereas, Pune City looked confused during some parts in the match as it wasn’t evident what Habas’ strategy was in the first game.
Many times small details in the game decide its final outcome. The Stallions were guilty of losing many individual battles as Bruno was no that effective in midfield along with Lenny Rodrigues and also Mumbai’s centre backs, Anwar and Goian were not tested enough on the night. It was evident that Pune missed Antonio Habas on the touchline but the performance was such that the Spaniard could not have helped to turn the tide against their rivals.
One thing that may have changed the course of the game was the substitutions to bring in Francisco Fernandes and Pitu could have been done earlier to up the ante and increase the pressure on Mumbai’s defense,
The road ahead for Antonio Habas’ side
All was not gloomy though for the hosts as they will take many positives from the game as Pune's assistant manager Miguel said after the game, “Even if the team didn't play well but we still created a lot of chances against a strong Mumbai side. This team consists of almost 80% of new players and it will take time to gel which will improve the performances.”
Pune have an exciting squad to work with and also have a manager of Antonio Habas' ilk who knows the league arguably better than anybody.
Pune made some inspiring substitutions which increased the tempo of the game and put Mumbai on the defensive late in the second half. Momar N'Doye and Pitu had a productive cameo as the duo brought the energy that Pune lacked in the first half. The duo looked threatening as N'Doye was more than a handful on the left wing as he created a couple of good chances for the team.
Pitu, on the other hand, distributed the ball and created one of the best chances of the game but his compatriot, Jesus Tato shot straight at the keeper. A midfield trio of Bruno, Lucca and Pitu can work wonders for Pune until their best bet, Eugeneson Lyngdoh returns from his club commitments.
Sanju Pradhan, the winger who has experience of the league and also of playing under Antonio Habas can replace Gustavo Oberman which will comply with the league’s rule of six foreigners to accommodate Pitu. Pune definitely lacked creativity from midfield which the Spaniard Pitu can bring into the team in place of Lenny Rodrigues, who cut a sorry figure in the first match of this season.
Dharmaraj Ravanan should also be considered in place of Rahul Bheke who had a disappointing game as he was run ragged firstly by Matias Defederico and then in the final few moments by Jackichand Singh. Pune City's manager Habas has his work cut and a lot of work to do on the training field ahead of their next game against FC Goa who also lost their opening game against NorthEast United.
Pune has a loyal fan base which has supported the team wholeheartedly in the past two seasons. This team has a lot of potential with a right mix of foreign players and some exciting Indian players combined with the experience of Antonio Habas.
The Stallions need to bounce back strongly in the next game if they want to improve on their standings from the previous seasons. Habas' working style is quite similar to Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid side as he has to instill a winning mentality in this squad which made Atletico De Kolkata succeed in the first season under the Spaniard.