Jeje Lalpekhlua's first half goal was cancelled in the last ten minutes as Habas' return to the dugout in the ISL saw them pick a point...
Chennaiyin FC will be disappointed having missed out on a chance to go top of the table. After taking the lead through Jeje Lalpekhlua in the 28th minute, they conceded a late goal through Anibal Zurdo's free-kick as FC Pune City picked up their second point on home soil in the third edition of the Indian Super League (ISL).
The home side began with as much as a third of the changes the away side made, as Antonio Habas shifted to a 4-4-2. Eduardo Ferreira's re-enlistment meant Gouramangi Singh dropped out, with Dharmaraj Ravanan, Rahul Bheke and Narayan Das partnering him in defense. Jonatan Lucca and Mohammed Sissoko started as expected, but there was still no start for Momar N'Doye, as Arata Izumi and Sanju Pradhan began this tie as wingers. Jesus Tato and Dramane Traore were the strikers.
Marco Materazzi, the Italian coach of Chennaiyin, wielded the axe as expected. The attacking trident bore a completely refurbished look, with Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jayesh Rane and Omagbeni Dudu all starting. Raphael Augusto dropped to the bench, making way for Manuel Blasi, as Siam Hanghal and Hans Mulder retained their starting spots from three days ago. In defense John Arne Riise restarted as Eli Sabia, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Jerry Lalrinzuala all retained their places. Out went Karanjit Singh from under the sticks as well, with Duwayne Kerr returning.
Pune City seemed to have gotten off to a flier when Dramane Traore headed past the Jamaican keeper with power and precision. The goal was disallowed when the official, Tejas Nagvenkar rightly spotted assist provider Jonatan carry the ball out of play on the left hand side, before he crossed it with verve for the 6’3.5" striker to head in.
At the other end, a free-kick taken by Riise finally ended up in the path of Dudu, after some pinball, but the striker was adjudged to be offside, before hammering into the bottom corner.
'Oooooffff' was the collective chorus when a deflected Arata cross from the left, nearly bounced into the path of Traore. Kerr read the trajectory well and pounced on the loose ball.
The Pune bubble, as expected painfully, burst again in the most unexpected of fashions, in the 28th minute. Responding to a long hop. Jeje Lalpekhlua grappled for the ball with Eduardo. Breaking off the shackles, the striker, some 30 yards from goal, lobbed his strike over the Armenian 'keeper, Bete. Poor positioning from the goalkeeper, saw his efforts of arming away the ball in vain.
Pune responded with vigour. Narayan Das whipped in a deep cross, off an incisive pass by Lucca through the left. The ball, half cleared by Lalrinzuala, fell kindly to Tato, who should've really buried the ball into the back of Kerr's net. Sadly, he ballooned it straight over, much to his manager's befuddlement.
The crowd upped the ante and roared Sissoko, who misplaced a pass badly. That summed up much of the Maratha Stallions' frustrating performance thus far. Jonatan was the next to try his luck, alighting the ball off the turf with a right footed strike in the 39th minute, that just flew inches over the Super Machans' cross-bar.
Pune City then showed some much needed cohesion by opening the Chennaiyin defense up. Tato, Pradhan and Sissoko combined on the edge of the box. The Spanish striker deftly back heeled into the path of the Mali-born Sissoko, who took a punt with his left foot, only to miscue badly.
Half chances littered the Pune game as the half-petered out with crosses being cleared with ease by a well organised Chennaiyin defense.
The referee blew for the half with the home side in the ascendency, but on the back foot on the scoreline.
A Chennaiyin double chance was grafted at the very beginning of the second half. Dudu was alert, pivoted on his heel and smashed a ball towards Bete's right had post. The keeper palmed it away, but that was followed up by a diving header by Rane which lobbed up into the air and into the Pune City keeper's gloves much to his relief.
Traore thundered up the opposite end with a tremendous turn of pace, getting past Lalrinzuala, but his check back and shot, which hit Riise, was blocked.
Pune City threw Oberman in a desperate bid to get pace into the team. Frustration emanated form the stands as the Stallions began to lose their prance.
Proceedings descended into the theatrical when Traore was deemed to have dived the box and was booked. This after Lalrinzuala had tamely given away the ball, under pressure from Oberman, who seemed injured.
Dudu then created a chance out of a counter attack, shaking off the nagging overtures of Ferreira and then shooting wide. Harmanjot Khabra was introduced into the field of play by Materazzi, seemingly to protect the lead.
Pune were lucky not to be down to ten as Ravanan stamped Dudu deliberately but the referee failed to spot it.
Argentine Oberman then had his night cut short, the substitute being re-substituted by Anibal Zurdo.
Khabra then grappled down Lucca resulting in a free-kick some 25 yards from goal for the home side. And thus came the roar. An equaliser came off the foot of Anibal Zurdo, in the 82nd minute. The ball was lifted over the covering wall and onto the post of Kerr, which deflected it into the goal.
Pune lifted, sprang into action. Lucca earned another free-kick 20 yards out of goal. Zurdo took the freekick again, but this time Kerr was at hand to fist away the chance.
Davide Succi had a golden chance to win the match in the 92 minute where the Pune defender covering the ball in front of him slipped. His shot though was too tame to trouble Edel thoroughly.
The referee blew the full-time with both teams ending the night on level the scoreline. Pune City now have five points to show, level with Kerala Blasters while Chennaiyin moved to third with eight points.