AFC Cup 2014: Pune FC end their campaign on a high

Pune FC register victory against Kitchee SC
Pune FC register victory against Kitchee SC to end their AFC Cup 2014 campaign on a high, Picture Courtesy: Pune FC

AFC Cup 2014
Shree Shivachhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi, Pune
Pune FC 2-0 Kitchee SC
PFC: Zohmigliana Ralte(74th, 80th)

Pune FC sealed a historic first-ever win on the continental stage defeating Hong Kong champions Kitchee SC 2-0 in a AFC Cup Group-H final round encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Tuesday.

Defender Zohmingliana Ralte’s second half brace (74th & 80th minute) handed Pune FC a well-deserved win over the Group-H winners.The win, no doubt historic, had Pune FC goalkeeper Amrinder Singh save a penalty and the rebound moments after the hosts took the lead.

The three points earned took Pune FC’s overall tally to six points but they remained fourth behind Kitchee (13 pts), Nay Pyi Taw (8 pts) and Tampines Rovers (6 pts). Moreover, Pune FC was the not just the only team to stay unbeaten against Kitchee in the group-stage, but also handed the Hong Kong side their first defeat in twenty games in all competitions.

With injuries and suspensions to deal with, Coach Mike Snoei made four changes to the starting lineup handing starts to Mirjan Pavlovic, Prakash Thorat, Dhanpal Ganesh and Salam Ranjan Singh. In an equally fought opening quarter, it was Jorge Tarres who first went close for the visitors. However, the Spaniard’s attempt from inside the box on the right ended in the sidenetting.

At the other end, Pune FC kept on pushing ahead but were falling short of penetrating into the Kitchee box. Pune FC first went close in the 22nd minute when Ralte’s header off Anthony D’Souza went just over the horizontal. Five minutes later, left-back Gurjinder Kumar beat the offside trap on the left flank to set free only for his direction less cross to go wide.

At the other end, the Pune FC defense led by keeper Amrinder Singh held firm as the opponents kept on attacking the Pune FC goal. Into the final five minutes of the half, Pune FC had a glorious chance to open scoring after Mirjan earned a freekick on the edge of the box. However, Anthony’s dipping shot went inches over the horizontal.

At the other end, Pune FC had Amrinder to thank once again after the young Punjabi blocked To Hon To’s powerful shot after the winger got into the clear inside the box on the right. Moments later, Amrinder once again produced a save blocking Chan Man Fai’s header from close range to keep the score goalless going into the breather.

Coach Mike Snoei made the first change bringing in winger Lester Fernandez in place of Prakash. The move made instant impact as Lester created a chance for Mirjan, but the Australian’s header went agonisingly wide. At the other end, Kitchee almost took the lead but Chan Man Fai’s effort from the edge of the box off Juan Belencoso’s through ball came off the post.

Five minutes later, Amrinder once again pulled off a great save to keep the hosts in the game. Striker Belencoso controlled a cross inside the box and volleyed on the turn only for an outstretched Amrinder to deny him. At the other end, Pune FC almost went ahead. Lester set up skipper Riga Mustapha on a counter but the Dutchman’s effort from the edge of the box went into the sidenetting. Minutes later, Lester’s back-to-back chances from the edge of the box went over as Pune FC continued to push.

Pune FC dominance finally paid off as they took the lead in the 74th minute. Right-back Ralte’s scored with thumping header at the far post on Anthony’s corner kick in from the left. The home side’s celebrations were cut short as Kitchee were handed a lifeline a minute later at the other end. After Amrinder brought down Lam Ka Wai inside the box, the referee pointed to the spot. However, Amrinder made up for his mistake saving Belencoso’s penalty kick and blocking the rebound form Tarres. Charged up after Amrinder’s moment of genius in the Pune FC goal, the home side began to attack and earned another corner in the 80th minute. Ralte once again headed home the corner at the far post taken by Lester on the left to complete his brace. Pune FC kept their calm and held on to their two goal lead in the final ten minutes to seal the much deserved win.
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About Debraj Banerjee

Hi, I am Debraj Banerjee from Adra, West Bengal. A keen follower of Indian football and always an optimist that the game will get the recognition it truely deserves. What we ask from you is your support and one day the dream might turn true. Fingers crossed for Indian football. Cheers!

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