Hosts FC Pune City overpowered Kerala Blasters with a 3-2 win in a thrilling encounter at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune to rise to the summit of the ISL standings. Turkish midfielder Tuncay Sanli’s second half strike turned out to be the winner as the two sides went into the break with two goals apiece.
The first half started out in brilliant fashion as the away side opened the scoring in the first minute when Mohammed Rafi powered home a header. It was the fastest goal in this edition of the ISL. Pune replied strongly with two quick goals from Nigerian striker Kalu Uche to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
It was Rafi again who restored parity for the visitors with his second of the night in the first half. Ultimately, Tuncay Sanli’s powerful header in the second half was the difference between the two sides as Pune came away with all three points to move to the top of the table.
Pune City head coach David Platt made five changes in the starting lineup. Ravanan, Johnson, Maithani, Jackichand and Yendrick Ruiz were benched giving Govin Singh, including Diego Colotto, Bikash Jairu, Pritam Kotal and Kalu Uche. And they did have a set back with Lenny Rodrigues not fit for the game.
While his counterpart Peter Taylor made three changes keeping out Bruno Perone, Cavin Lobo and Sanchez Watt and bringing in Shankar Sampingiraj, Josue and Chris Dagnall.
The first half belonged to strikers Mohammed Rafi of Kerala and Kalu Uche of Pune City as they shared the honours with two goals each for their teams as they were evenly matched going into the break 2-2.
Rafi scored the fastest goal of this edition of the ISL when he nodded home in the very first minute of play. Incidentally, he has scored three goals in as many starts for Kerala and has proved that he can master airborne balls with all these goals coming with almost perfect headers. The goal was created by some good play and a perfect cross from the right flank by Christopher Dagnall.
However, the visitors’ joy was short-lived when Kalu Uche equalised for Pune when he nodded home Nicholas Shorey’s cross. This happened in the 15th minute of play.
Eight minutes later, Uche was in the thick of the action again as he made it 2-1 for the hosts. And it was Nicholas Shorey with his second assist of the match. He eased past Bheke and Mehtab and crossed into the box. Uche got on the end of it to slot it home. It was a mistake from defenders Marcus Williams and skipper Peter Ramage who had left Uche unmarked.
While Uche was the darling of the home crowd, Kerala’s Rafi joined the party making it 2-2, and in the process making it a goal feast as three goals came in just 15 minutes of each other.
The second half failed to live up to the excitement of the first half both in terms of the number of goals and the end to end football on offer. Both teams began the half looking for the winner but were determined to have numbers back to minimise risks of a counter attack.
The deciding moment in the game came in the 71st minute when Tuncay Sanli leapt in the air to head home for Pune to take the lead for the second time. And it was yet again Nicholas Shorey’s good work. All the goals Pune have scored have been assisted by the Englishman. The ex-Reading defender was the star of the night who ended the game with an incredible three assists.
FC Pune City looked determine to hang on to the lead and were successful in doing the same with some desperate defending towards the end and move back to first place on the ISL table with 12 points from six outings.
Last year’s runners-up Kerala Blasters stay at the bottom of the points tally with just four points.
Next up Pune go to Goa to play their second away match while Kerala are at home to take on Chennaiyin FC.