FC Pune City edged Delhi Dynamos 4-3 in a closely contested encounter at the Balewadi Sports Complex in the third edition of the Indian Super Leageu (ISL), on Friday evening.
It was as serene night in Pune, the perfect climatic conditions playing to the gallery, as FC Pune City took to the turf against the Delhi Dynamos one last time at the Shree Chhatrapati Balewadi Sports complex, in the league stages of the Indian Super League's (ISL) 2016 edition.
Antonio Habas went into this tie with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Lenny Rodrigues, Augustine Fernandes, Raju Yumnam and Dramane Traore all dropped out in what was redressal of problems.
Dharmaraj Ravanan, Eduardo Ferreira, Gouramangi Singh and Narayan Das all took to the field ahead of Edel Bete. Jonathan Lucca and Mohammed Sissoko guarded central midfield. Eugeneson Lyngdoh was thrust into the number 10 role, while Arata Izumi's return to action after a hamstring injury meant he was deployed on the right.Momar N'Doye made his first ever ISL start, while Anibal Zurdo recorded yet another Stallions cap as the lone striker.
Delhi made four changes from the side that came back twice against Atletico de Kolkata in the national capital last time around. Richard Gadze remained injured on the sidelines while Milan Singh and Badara Badji were suspended following maximum yellow card offences in the league. Antonio Doblas too suffered a cull, while Niasse sat out their tie as well.
The game nearly began on the best possible note for the Stallions. A fantastic through ball by Mohammed Sissoko, in the opening 120 seconds saw Delhi's defense split through the middle, leaving Eduardo through on goal with just the keeper to beat. The goalkeeper pulled off a world class save from point blank range, denying the centre-back his second goal of the ISL campaign, for the Punekars.
It was Bete's turn in the 13th minute when Malouda received a fantastic through ball by the rampaging Chakraborthy. The Frenchman's shot was superbly saved by the advancing Armenian, as Pune lived on then by a feather.
The Dynamos were then involved in a fantastic series of play which stunned Pune and nearly led to the opening goal. A well worked corner led to the Malouda, in the thick of action, as he setup a beautifully weighed ball for Memo in the box. The Brazilian's quick cutback was intercepted by Ferreira or else it would surely have been 1-0.
And then came the penalty. It was so easy to win, Zurdo baffling Lalchawnkima with quick feet, drawing him into the foul, getting the referee's nod for a penalty and passing the ball for Mohammed Sissoko to take the 12 yard spot-kick from. However, the effort from the Malian international was so poor, Poirei fisted it away, diving to his left.
Momar N'Doye raced clear on the left and drew a save off a poor effort, into the near post of the Delhi keeper, which resulted in a corner.
The Marathas then had a corner fall to Ferreira at the far post.The Brazilian number six was unable to head in, choosing to control the ball on the edge of the box, before crossing in dangerously to the opposite post. The ball drifted close to the crossbar before heading out for a goalkick.
Somehow this game still hadn't a goal and it would remain goalless when an inch perfect ball form the Delhi half set Marcelinho free through the middle. The attacker used his pace to stretch clear of the Pune defense and had only Bete to beat from the edge of the box, when he lost his footing and allowing Pune to deal with the danger.
The fact-paced, open encounter finally had it's first goal when Dynamos broke the dead-lock in the 43rd minute. Fantastic skill by Marcelinho on the edge of the box enabled Memo to make a run behind him. The Brazilian back heeled to his compatriot and the midfielder was set-free into the box. A cool and composed cutback saw Kean Lewis tap the ball home to ensure the away side took the lead on the night.The Dynamos jumped with joy while Pune's bench were left stunned.
The Stallions placed right back, a fantastic through ball by Zurdo on this occassion allowing the pace N'Doye to race into the box and hammer the ball at goal. Poiirei was once again equal to the task though, making another split second save.
The half-time whistle was blown at theat instant as the Lions were leading the chase for three points.
Anibal Zurdo brought the home side into the match and the home crowd to their feet when he headed in the equaliser from a Lucca delivery. It was a perfect header, the Mexican out jumping the taller Delhi defenders and placing the ball beyond Poirei's outstretched right hand.
1-1 became 2-1 in the 55th minute, 11 minutes after the Stallions jotted out of the gate. A great Lucca ball into the box, saw it initially fall to Zurdo. The Mexicans intelligent flick ricocheted off Memo inside the box and looped in the air kindly for the covering Sissoko. The midfielder made amends for his earlier miss from the penalty spot and hammered into goal, past Poirei, in the flick of an eye.
The euphoria grappling the Balewadi turned into greater elation when in the 62nd minute Anibal Zurdo doubled the home team's lead. Pune sprinted past Delhi in a matter of 15 minutes, with Zurdo capitalising on a capitulating spell of defensive play by the Pride. Taking the ball in his stride after Ruben couldn't control a pass from Poirei, the striker let rip from some 25 yards into the bottom corner of the goal. The goalkeeper stood rooted and was clearly stunned by the power and placement of the shot.
Kean Lewis kept pressing for his side and had a save pulled off by Edel Bete. Malouda first tested Bete with a low piledriver which the Armenian parried away. Then in the 77th minute, the French marquee dragged Delhi back into the match when he flicked a subtle cross into the box low, past Edel Bete, despite the ball taking a punt off the post and over the line.
Despite Delhi's advances, the Punekars had two good chances to score. Lenny Rodrigues had his smash acrobatically saved by Poirei, while the diminutive keeper also managed to make a leaping save to see it hit the roof of the net and over the crossbar.
Malouda was presented with a golden opportunity in the 87th minute, but he hacked his shot wide, much to Zambrotta's angst. Six minutes were added on as audible gasps were heard resonate through the home crowd.
Lenny Rodrigues would add gloss to the score line in the 93rd minute when he turned in a Jonatan Lucca pass on the counter into Poierei's far corner. It was a record scoreline for Pune who had never scored four in the ISL.
Records further tumbled when 50 seconds later the Dynamos pulled a goal-back through sheer industry. A Malouda scorcher was only parried to Malsawmzuala on the penalty spot, as the Bengaluru midfielder turned in past the reacting Bete. Pelissari had a late freekick that was wasted as he fired over the bar from 20 yards out.
The Pune side rode out the final few seconds to record a memorable victory. It was only their second at home, while the Pride recorded just their second defeat in the competition.
The Pune-based side will now travel to Guwahati in fresh spirits to face NorthEast United, while the Dynamos will now travel back to face FC Goa in a weeks time.