For the second time this season, FC Pune City succumbed to a 0-1 loss at the hands of Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League to continue their winless run against the southern side in the history of the ISL. As it had happened in Pune earlier in the season when these two sides met, it was another late goal that did Pune City in at the 'Marina Arena' in Chennai.
The first half belonged to Pune City, who created some very good chances, and were it not for some last-ditch defending from Chennaiyin, might have gone ahead. But their second-half showing didn't reach the same levels and Chennaiyin eventually finished the game stronger.
A disappointed Vladica Grujic, Pune City's assistant coach, said after the game that he didn't feel Chennaiyin were the better side.
"I'm very, very sad after this match because okay we know Chennai are not easy to beat, but I don't think we lost this game because they were the better team", said Grujic.
His frustration lay with the officiating.
"If you watched the game, would you think Chennai won the game because they were the better team? I don't know", he said.
"First half, we played very good football and second half, also, we controlled the game, but Chennai won. About other things, I don't wish to speak", the Serb went on to add.
Grujic said he was left perplexed with some of the refereeing decisions in the game, saying, "I expect regularity from this league. Chennai is a good team like I said yesterday, but something happened which is not right."
He felt that there had been a foul in the lead-up to Chennaiyin's goal and was also unhappy about the penalty awarded against them in the first half which Chennaiyin, fortunately for the Stallions, failed to convert. With Gregory Nelson streaking away, Adil Khan's shoulder charge on the Chennaiyin man inside the box was deemed a foul and the referee pointed to the spot, much to the shock of the Pune players.
"There was a foul for the goal", he said.
"First half, we had the penalty, second half, a foul just before we conceded the goal", he went on.
But he wished not to elaborate on it considering the consequences their head coach Ranko Popovic has faced after his own outspoken comments. However, he said that the issue was one that needed to be looked at, terming it "serious."
"Our coach has been punished for speaking about these things. But, it's serious. Two days ago, a team won 2-1, today a team won 1-0, but about these things I don't want to speak", Grujic said referencing the game between FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC a couple of days ago which also witnessed some contentious calls.
Chennaiyin's goal came in the 83rd minute and Pune City weren't able to respond after going down. They were without key forward Marcelinho in this game due to suspension and Grujic admitted that with him in the squad, things might have been different.
"When you concede a goal like that, it's not so easy. Yesterday, we spoke about how Marcelinho can do something for us, but today we did not have the power to get a draw or win this game", said Grujic talking about his side's inability to come back after conceding late.
Diego Carlos came in for the suspended Marcelinho and actually had a very good game. His movement and pace ran the Chennaiyin defence ragged and opened up many opportunities. Diego even had a shot cannon off the crossbar once with the keeper well beaten.
Grujic said he was very happy with Diego's impact, but also praised the whole team.
"Whole team played a solid game. Sometimes it's Diego, sometimes Marcelinho, sometimes Alfaro depending on the situation", he said talking about how the players adapt.
Despite largely playing a good match, Pune City ended up on the losing side. When asked how the team would respond from this setback, Grujic opted to be philosophical about it.
"Life must go on. You cannot win every game. We know we have to cope with this situation and tomorrow is a new day", said the Serb to conclude matters.Published 14 Jan 2018, 14:27 IST