I-League: Pune FC held to 1-1 draw by United SC
Nikhil Kadam scored off a copybook defensive lapse, but Pune FC’s exuberance was short-lived when United SC shot back within five minutes and the two teams settled for a 1-1 draw in a Round 12 I-League match at the Balewadi Sports Complex on Sunday evening.
There was much at stake for Pune FC, who were tied on points with Bengaluru FC and Salgaocar FC at the top of the table. But Bengaluru FC scored a win, while Salgaocar FC lost at home earlier in the day making it imperative for Pune FC to score a win, but it was not to be.
Given that the I-League match was being specially recorded by the BBC for its upcoming series of documentaries on India, the Red Lizards had conjured up a sizable crowd to witness the match.
It all began well with Pune FC keeping ball in possession for most part and took the lead midway through the second half when Kadam chanced on a stray ball. But a fighting United SC equalized soon after when Pune FC defenders left a wide door open on the left of the goal post.
The draw meant the Pune FC move into second spot with 19 points, two behind league leaders Bengaluru FC and one ahead of Salgaocar FC, who lost to Sporting Clube de Goa. United SC went down one rung after Sporting Goa climbed into fourth position behind Salgaocar FC.
The match began with Douhou Pierre taking the ball upfront and setting up Kadam with a crisp through ball. Kadam, who rushed from the left and shot from inside the box, but United goalkeeper Ishan Debnath saved the attempt. On the counter, Souvik Chakraborty rushed from the left and sent blinder from the edge of the box, but Amrinder Singh was well placed to collect it.
In the 16th minute, Ranti Martins Soleye threatened the Pune FC goal with a close-range header from Souvik’s chipped cross from the right, but yet again Amrinder saved the day for the Red Lizards. Then Gurjinder got a golden chance when he went clear and controlled the lob from Mumtaz Akhtar, but his shot was well saved.
After a barren but high-voltage first half, the crowd finally saw the ball rolling into the nets when Douhou sent a cross to Mustafa Riga into the clear, who tried to beat the goalkeeper in vain. Riga still stays on with the ball and on the run crossed it to Kadam, who just tapped in to score from a stray ball. Five minutes later K. Asif spoiled Pune FC’s party when he chanced on a rebound. Amrinder had saved Ranti’s attempt from range, but Souvik collected the rebound and sent a low cross for Asif, who rushed from left to find the equalizer.