I-League: Pune FC held to a goalless draw by Dempo SC
Pune FC fought hard but were held to a goalless draw by Dempo SC in an I-League Round-6 encounter at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi on Saturday evening. In a game of equal exchanges, both sides created chances throughout the game but fell short of converting them in the final third.
The game also saw Pune FC keep their first clean sheet in over two months thanks to goalkeeper Amrinder Singh's heroics under the bar. The young shot-stopper produced numerous saves throughout the game to deny Dempo SC. Having split points, Pune FC still maintain their position as league leaders with 11 points as Dempo moved up to sixth with 7 points.
Injuries forced Coach Karim Bencherifa to make three changes to the Starting XI as he brought in Anas Edathodika, Ishfaq Ahmed and Lalramluaha Hmar.
In a fiercely contested battle, the game went into top gear right from the opening minute. Pune FC began by making early inroads, into Dempo SC's six-yard box, but their defence stood firm. The visitors too were not to be slighted and tried to make early inroads themselves into Pune FC's half.
Playing his first game after suffering an injury in the finals of the Bhutan King's Cup, PFC captain Anas Edathodika looked at his best as he continued to thwart the attacks that were launched on the Pune FC goal. Striker Tolgay Ozbey let one fly in as early as the fifth minute of the game, but it was well blocked by Amrinder. Pune FC countered almost immediately in the seventh minute through Ishfaq who played a low ball from the right, Thongkhosiem Haokip and Ryuji Sueoka combined well for a one-two but were unable to breach the Dempo defence.
Thereafter the game turned into an end-to-end affair. Pune FC attacked through Sueoka and Darko Nikac but were unable to break down the Dempo defence. In the 17th minute, Darko, Pune FC's Montenegrin striker went down and had to be substituted. Prakash Thorat came on for the injured Darko who had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.
In the 21st minute, Alwyn George sent in a low cross For Tolgay but it was well covered by Anas. Almost immediately, Pune FC retaliated through Haokip, who was flagged offside. A minute past the half hour mark, Pune FC almost broke the deadlock. Haokip outjumped his marker to get a nice header, but the ball went just over the horizontal.
Pune FC had a glorious chance in the 38th minute. Arata Izumi displayed some great ball control on the left and sent the ball down to Haokip outside the box. The striker was clear on goal, but his first touch let him down. The two teams went into the breather tied at goalless.
The second half began right from where the two teams left the first. Good end-to-end football with tackles in the midfield was how the first half was, and that is exactly how the second was. In the 48th minute, Dempo SC earned a free-kick after Alwyn George was brought down by Ganesh but Pune FC's defence was up to the task. On the other hand, two minutes later, Ishfaq earned a free-kick for Pune FC but nothing came of it.
The first real chance for the visitors came in the 54th minute when Clifford Miranda let loose a volley which was saved by a diving Amrinder. The subsequent corner which they earned also saw the Pune FC defence clearing it off easily. The game thereby switched gears once again. From a flowing, tactical game the players on both sides resorted to playing a more physical one. Pune FC continued to defend well through.
On the other hand in the 71st minute Arata cut in a low ball from the left for Prakash but the Dempo SC keeper managed to intercept him. In the 80th minute, Arata earned a free-kick for the home team in a promising position which earned Pune FC a corner. The same, taken by Arata, almost gave Pune FC the lead when the ball reached Dhanpal Ganesh from a well-timed header by Luciano Sabrosa. Ganesh's header however just sailed over the top.
Both sides had a few half chances in the final few minutes of the game before it ended 0-0.