Pune FC (Mustapha 9, Douhou 88)
Nay Pyi Taw FC (Zaw Lin 17, Khaing Htoo 85)
Pune FC: Amrinder Singh; Srikanth Ramu (Lalrempuia Fanai 62), Salam Ranjan Singh, Calum Angus, Zohmingliana Ralte (Gurjinder Kumar 46); Gabriel Fernandes, Dhanpal Ganesh, Douhou Pierre, Anthony D’Souza; Riga Mustapha (Lester Fernandez 80); Thongkhosiem Haokip
Nay Pyi Taw FC: Van Lar Hrual; Chan Chan (Khaing Htoo 74), Nay Zaw Aung, Latt Ko Ko Aye, Obadin Aikhena, Ni Maung Maung Aung; Jung Yoon Sik, Tin Zaw Moe (Pyae Phyo Oo 90+4), Zaw Lin (Aung Kyaw Naing 90); Delgado Carlos Alberto; Michele Di Piedi
Pune FC’s first-ever AFC Cup fixture ended in a 2-2 draw with Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw FC in a Group H encounter at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune on Wednesday evening.
Riga Mustapha’s early strike was cancelled out by Zaw Lin and the visitors took the lead late in the second half through substitute Khaing Htoo. But Ivorian midfielder Douhou Pierre equalised two minutes before the 90 to ensure a point for the Red Lizards.
Pune FC coach Mike Snoei chose the same eleven that started in the convincing 2-0 win over Mohammedan Sporting in the I-League last week. There were four club academy graduates in the lineup but only three foreigners as newly-signed Australian striker Mirjan Pavlovic remained unavailable.
All four foreigners started for Nay Pyi Taw FC, who were playing their first-ever competitive match outside Myanmar. Predictably they looked a bit nervous in the early stages while Pune settled quickly and went close through Gabriel Fernandes and Thongkhosiem Haokip.
Pune opened the scoring when Douhou did well to find an unmarked Mustapha, who scored with a beautiful curling effort to start the celebrations in the stands. The I-League title contenders couldn’t have wished for a better start but the goal actually brought the visitors to life with Ni Maung Maung Aung producing a save off Amrinder Singh.
Nay Pyi Taw’s equaliser came from a Pune blunder as Dhanpal Ganesh’s clearance fell to Lin and the attacker scored with a scorching effort from the edge of the box. That goal came out of nothing and wasted all the good work done by Pune in the early stages.
Having drawn level, Nay Pyi Taw were happy to sit back and play on the break. Pune dominated possession but the Myanmar club looked comfortable at the back although club captain and goalkeeper Van Lal Hruai had to produce a couple of important saves.
It was all square at the interval and Snoei brought on India international Gurjinder Kumar in place of the inexperienced Zohmingliana Ralte at the start of the second period.
Pune saw a lot of the ball after the restart also but only looked like scoring from set-pieces. One of their best efforts of the match came from a Calum Angus freekick but Hruai made the save. At the other end, Nay Pyi Taw created very little with Italian striker Michele Di Piedi almost testing Amrinder with a half-volley from outside the box.
Snoei made a positive change after the hour mark as defender Srikanth Ramu gave way for the more attack-minded Lalrempuia Fanai. But the pattern of the game didn’t really change as despite having more of the possession Pune struggled to create openings. There were moments of some fine interplays by Pune but they never really tested Hruai from open play.
Nay Pyi Taw coach Myo Hlaing Win also made a positive substitution as midfielder Htoo replaced Chan Chan but they too only went close from Delgado Carlos Alberto’s freekick.
Just when it looked like the match was heading for a draw, Htoo got on the end of a poor clearance and found the back of the net. That goal came in the 85th minute and by then Snoei had used up all three changes with goal scorer Mustapha also off the pitch.
But some individual brilliance from stand-in skipper Douhou brought Pune level as the 26-year-old skipped past a couple of Nay Pyi Taw players before beating Hruai with a powerful strike.
On the balance of play Pune deserved a point at least but they would be slightly disappointed on not taking all three from a home fixture. Hong Kong outfit Kitchee SC are the early leaders of this group after a thumping 5-0 victory away at Singapore’s Tampines Rovers earlier in the day.