An inspired performance by new recruits Darko Nikac and Edgar Marcelino led Pune FC to sink Ashley Westwood’s Bengaluru FC by three goals to one. With this win, Pune FC registered their first win of I-League 2015, while Bengaluru FC tasted their first defeat of the season.
Ashley Westwood’s figure pacing up and down the touchline, while Karim Bencherifa’s figure dishing out a wicked smirk, was perhaps a fair reflection of the first half of this big clash between two big teams. Ashley Westwood’s Bengaluru FC fell behind to visitors Pune FC, as early as in the 9th minute, when the Red Lizard’s marquee player and new signing Darko Nikac, blasted a sublime shot past a hapless Ralte following a delicious through ball, and handed Pune FC a deserved lead.
The visitors further asserted their intent to grab all three points as Luciano Sabrosa’s thumping header in the 25th minute whistled past Bengaluru FC’s goalkeeper Ralte to give Pune FC a two goal advantage.
Drastic change in formation for Bengaluru
The serene Ashley Westwood rectified his mistake of not starting with Sunil Chhetri and introduced the Indian captain, after succumbing to two goals. In what seemed to be a drastic change of formations, Bengaluru FC switched from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-3-3, to accommodate Chhetri and Sean Rooney upfront.
However, this change of tactics did little to affect Pune FC’s dominance. The Red Lizards stamped their authority in the midfield region via new signing Edgar Marcelino. Marcelino, along with Izumi, hassled Bengaluru’s defence and provided constant ammunition to marquee player, Darko Nikac.
Nikac was once again in the thick of action as he blasted a thumping effort which whiskered past Bengaluru FC’s post in the 31st minute. A frantic first half, which saw both team indulge in end to end stuff, concluded with Sunil Chhetri missing a sitter to half Bengaluru FC’s deficit.
Pune use numerical advantage and utilize vacant spaces
The introduction of Robin Singh in the second half was perhaps a reflection of Bengaluru FC’s intent to a gather something from the fixture. Nonetheless, a relentless Pune FC emerged out on to the pitch and asserted pressure immediately.
Ashley Westwood’s men started to play their attacking brand of football and changed tactics to 4-4-2, with Sean Rooney and Robin Singh, leading the line, while Sunil Chhetri drifted towards the left wing. Although this approach reaped profits in the first few minutes of the second half, it ultimately backfired as Pune FC’s electric wingers constantly capitalized on vacant spaces thus created.
Pune FC’s Haokip missed a sitter in the 53rd minute to extend Red Lizard’s lead, as a brilliant ball in by Sueoka, was headed away by Haokip. Subsequently, the Red Lizards revered to committing men behind the ball and relied on numerical advantage to safeguard their lead.
Pune FC tripled their lead in the 81st minute, when new recruit Ishfaq Ahmed combined with Arata Izumi to set up Sueoka on the far left flank, who belted in a low cross for Haokip to drive the ball into the back of the net.
The dying embers of the match saw vigorous attacks by the Blue Army. Ashley Westwood’s men, in an attempt to display something for their gallant efforts, chipped a goal back through Eugenson Lydogh in the 89th minute.
Karim Bencherifa’s tactical masterstroke clearly subdued Ashley Westwood’s strategy as the match ended with Pune FC grabbing all three points and the scoreboard displaying 3-1.Published 24 Jan 2015, 21:38 IST