Bangalore, March 28: Pune FC came from a goal down to hold leaders Bengaluru FC 1-1 in an I-League round 23 football encounter at the KSFA Stadium in Bengaluru here Friday.
Medio Thoi Singh (24th minute) gave Bengaluru FC a first-half lead before substitute Anthony D’Souza (73rd) pulled Pune FC level in the second half. Having split points, Pune FC stayed in the third place with 31 points, seven behind leaders Bengaluru FC.
Pune coach Mike Snoei made three changes to the starting lineup, handing starts to goalkeeper Arup Debnath, defender Calum Angus and medio Mumtaz Akhtar in place of suspended Amrinder Singh and Anas Edathodika along with the injured Dhanpal Ganesh.
The game began with both sides attacking from the word go. In the fifth minute, Thoi somehow got into the clear inside the Pune FC box, but a timely block by Srikanth Ramu averted any danger.
Pune FC thereafter dominated proceedings and went close twice in the next ten minutes. First, striker Mirjan Pavlovic’s grounder from the edge of the box was saved by the akeeper and then, playmaker Riga Mustapha’s low attempt from 20-yards out went inches wide.
Midway through the half, the hosts took the lead through Thoi Singh. Winger Sean Rooney beat left back Zohmingliana Ralte on the flank and crossed the ball inside the box. Striker Sunil Chhetri’s first-time effort on the cross came off the near post and rolled on the goalline to hit the far post before coming out. The stray ball was then tapped in from close by Thoi.
Pune FC kept on pushing at the other end, and almost pulled level in the 38th minute. Pavlovic’s thumping header on Calum’s corner kick from the right agonisingly came off the crossbar before being cleared by the rival defenders. Pune FC went into the break trailing 0-1.
The second half was a different story as Pune FC dominated majority of the proceedings. In the opening exchanges after play resumed, Pune FC went close through Pavlovic and Douhou Pierre.
However, Pavlovic’s attempt from Riga’s cross ended in the side-netting while Douhou was crowded out inside the box.
Nonetheless, Pune FC kept on pushing up and finally pulled level midway through the half when two second-half substitutes combined. Defender Othallo Tabia – on for Srikanth – did well to get into the clear on the right and crossed the ball for winger Anthony on for Arata Izumi – who headed home from the far post for his first goal of the season.
The equaliser gave Pune FC the confidence as they kept on attacking the Bengaluru FC goal. Into the final ten minutes, Bengaluru FC defender John Johnson appeared to handle Riga’s shot inside the box, but the referee waved play on.
Two minutes later, Pune FC almost took the lead. However, substitute Thongkhosiem Haokip – on for Mumtaz Akhtar – was denied by keeper Soram Poirei who saved his diving header off Pavlovic’s deep cross in from the left.
At the other end, Pune FC custodian Debnath did well to produce back-to-back saves and deny Chhetri and John Menyongar. Pune FC had a few attempts in the final minutes of the game, but the hosts held on for a 1-1 draw.