Pune FC’s Haokip makes it a debut to remember

In a match that promised end-to-end action right from kick-off,the first thrilling moment arrived after 52 minutes of the game had gone by at the Balewadi sports complex. Pune FC’s 6’6-striker Raul Fabiani from Equitorial-Guinea went in with his foot raised in an attempt to control a high ball. All he could manage was to […]

Written by Chinmay Brahme | Pune | Published: October 11, 2013 2:41 am

In a match that promised end-to-end action right from kick-off,the first thrilling moment arrived after 52 minutes of the game had gone by at the Balewadi sports complex. Pune FC’s 6’6-striker Raul Fabiani from Equitorial-Guinea went in with his foot raised in an attempt to control a high ball. All he could manage was to give Mohun Bagan AC’s Celestine Echezona a whack in the head with his metal studs.

Both players went to the ground,but Echezona,in a moment of pique,lashed out at Fabiani as the lanky striker went to inquire about the fallen man’s health. The defender’s moment of rashness earned him a second booking,the first came when he toppled the same striker with the ball long gone. Echezona’s dismissal ensured that Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa’s carefully assembled defensive fortification crumbled and Pune FC,playing their first home game of the season,who looked rather uninspired in the final third suddenly found their striking teeth.

Fabiani limped off at the hour mark with a suspected ankle injury. His replacement,Thongkhosiem Haokip,a fresh-faced recruit from the Pune FC academy,got his first I-League start. The boy from Manipur,thrown in at the deep end and playing as the lone man up-front for Pune FC wasted no time in grabbing his opportunity. In the 70th minute,English defender Calum Angus drove in a free-kick from the right. The fizzing ball seemed to be heading uninterrupted towards the touchline only for Haokip to rise magnificently at the far post and nod home emphatically.

The 20-year-old’s debut effort helped Pune FC break their shackles and as Bencharifa’s side wilted in the face of a concentrated attack from the side in red,Austalian James Meyer scored Pune FC’s second,a few minutes later. Othallo Tabia,the left-back who had been impressive all night as he ran tirelessly down the left flank,sent in a low flat cross into the box. Aiborlang Khongjee,Bagan’s central defender,rose to meet the ball,but the pace on the delivery seemed to throw him off balance. Khongjee’s weak touch fell on the edge of Bagan’s six-yard box and Meyer,who was lurking in the box,made a meal of the loose ball.

Pune FC coach Mike Snoei,employed a 4-5-1 formation,using Fabiani as a target-man. The midfield of the Pune team seemed to have mastered their plans as wingers Meyer and Nikhil Kadam bombed down the flanks,putting in crosses. Douhou Pierre,in a central role also looked in control as he sprayed the ball around intelligently. Fabiania seemed to be lacking in the final third. On a number of occasions,the midfield gave their striker the ball only for him to run into cul-de-sacs or employ a needless dribble.

However,Haokip and Meyer provided coach Snoei another three points.

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