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ISL 2017: Teamwork — the key to FC Pune City's rise

341   //    28 Dec 2017, 00:52 IST

Marcelinho (left) and manager Ranko Popovic have been instrumental
Marcelinho (left) and manager Ranko Popovic have been instrumental

The points tables of the previous three seasons of the ISL do not hold any positives for the Orange and Purple Army. In the three editions, they have been trying different combinations every season - from changing of head coaches to signing big names. However, they have found themselves on the wrong side of the points table.

The Stallions though, have shown different intent so far this season. Their intent was clear after they signed some top performers from the previous season, namely Emiliano Alfaro from NorthEast United FC and last season's golden boot winner Marcelinho from Delhi Dynamos FC. Both these players played a crucial role for their respective sides in the previous edition of the ISL.

With the inclusion of both these names, Pune City arguably possess one of the strongest attacks on paper. The appointment of a Serbian head coach in the form of Ranko Popovic after the pre-season tussle with Spaniard Antonio Habas has really worked their way and the team has started to perform on a good note.

The first glimpse of the combination of deadly duo of Alfaro and Marcelinho was witnessed when FC Pune City defeated the defending champions ATK at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, with Marcelinho scoring a brace and Alfaro having a goal against his name too. The team managed to put a stellar performance and netting 4 goals against the two-time champions. This was the first time since the inaugural season when ATK conceded more than 3 goals in the history of the league at their home ground.

Apart from these players, the team collectively is putting a lot of effort and their work is giving results. The midfield is managed by the midfield maestro in the form of Marcos Tebar accompanied by the solid Adil Khan. Not only these players have the ability to feed balls in dangerous positions but also have been seen making crucial interceptions whenever necessary. While Adil has been successful in netting the ball twice, Tebar has also managed to get his name on the scoring sheet once.

The defence has been pretty solid with the likes of Rafael Lopez and Gurtej Singh providing central solidity. The sticks have been guarded by the young and talented shot-stopper in the name of Vishal Kaith, who has managed 2 clean sheets from four appearances this season. Other players such as Baljit Sahni, Ashique Kuruniyan and Rohit Kumar too have come up with key performances.

Along with the players, the credit must also go to the head coach Ranko Popovic, who has been planning strategic moves from the dugout.The Serbian has impressed everyone by having different plans for every opponent so far in the competition. In their last match, the team managed to keep the free-scoring FC Goa at bay at their own fortress. The FC Goa strikers were declined space inside the FC Pune City box and were forced to take shots from outside the box itself.

Another match where his tactic was clearly visible was when FC Pune City hosted Bengaluru FC, where the likes of Miku and Sunil Chhetri were given no space to penetrate inside the box and the team were partially successful in keeping Bengaluru strikers quiet. But this lasted until the controversial red card to Baljit Sahni saw the havoc in the defence resulting in conceding three goals.

Considering their poor performances in their past seasons, there has been a ray of hope for the Orange Army this season. With all going well so far this season, the management, as well as the fans, would expect the team to go all the way this season. With 6 different goal scores from 7 matches, the team would not be lacking on confidence. Solid and consistent performances in their remaining fixtures could possibly lead the Stallions to their maiden title this season.

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