Kochi, Jan 17: Pune FC were handed a narrow 0-1 defeat by United SC in a second round Group A clash of the 35th Federation Cup football at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here Friday.
A solitary strike from second-half substitute Baldeep Singh (71st minute) proved to be the winner as poor finishing in the final third cost Pune.
With this loss, Pune dropped to third in the table with one point, behind Churchill Brothers and United SC.
The loss also meant that only a combination of results in the remaining Group A matches will see Pune FC progress to the next round.
Pune coach Mike Snoei made one change to the starting line-up, bringing in midfielder Mumtaz Akhtar in place of defender Zeeshan Rahman.
Pune began the game on the offensive and dominated proceedings from the first minute. Both winger James Meyer and defender Othallo Tabia managed to get clear on the right, but their crosses into the box were cleared.
Ten minutes on, Pune had a great chance to open the scoring. Medio Arata Izumi found winger Anthony D’Souza on the left on a sliding pass to open up space. The winger beat his marker and sent in a low cross for an onrushing Meyer. The Australian was however denied a shot by a United SC defender who cleared just in time.
Pune kept on pressing and saw Gurjinder hit wide moments later.
Twenty minutes into the half, Pune once again came close. Calum Angus’ powerful low drive on a freekick was somehow palmed away by custodian Jayanta Paul.
At the other end, United went close for the first time at the half hour mark. Set on a counter, striker Ranti Martins tried to find a teammate with a floating cross from the right. The ball was safely cleared by Pune skipper Anas Edathodika in front of the goal.
Seven minutes later, playmaker Douhou Pierre created a wonderful chance for striker Riga Mustapha. The Ivorian’s inch-perfect through pass saw Riga time his run to beat the offside trap. However, the linesman on the near side incorrectly flagged it offside.
Minutes later, Pune once again went close. After a quick one-two with Arata, Anthony set him up for a shot inside the box. With no one challenging, Arata’s poorly executed left-footed attempt sailed wide towards the corner flag.
Despite being dominant, failure to convert chances saw Pune go into the break tied at 0-0 with United SC.
Pune brought in winger Gabriel Fernandes to replace an injured Meyer after restart.
The second half was a similar story and Pune began brightly. However, United SC created the first chance of the half. Medio Lalkamal Bhowmick’s ambitious shot from Ranti cut back going over three minutes after restart.
At the other end, United – mostly restricted to counter attacks – took the lead against the run of play after a defensive lapse midway through the half.
Playmaker Eric Brown did well to beat Othallo on the left before cutting back the ball to unmarked substitute Baldeep. The ex-Pune FC player – on for Ranti – easily tapped in from close range.
The goal saw United fall even deeper protecting their slender lead.
Into the final quarter, Anthony did well to find Riga on the edge of the box with a cut back from left. The striker had his first attempt blocked by the crowded defence before his rebound was collected by the keeper.
Five minutes later, substitute Thongkhosiem Haokip – on for Arata – went close from the right flank. Controlling Douhoua’s through pass, the youngster took a crack from the edge of the box only to be denied by keeper Jayanta’s diving save.
Pune tried to penetrate through the United SC defence in the final stages, but the opponents held on for a narrow 1-0 win.