Pune FC suffered a crucial blow by going down to I-League leaders Churchill Brothers 1-2 in a round-23 encounter at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco,Goa.
Conceding two second-half goals in a span of five minutes through Bineesh Balan (58th ) and striker Sunil Chhetri (63rd ) Pune FC undid their chances of closing in on the leaders. Pune FC staged a late comeback when Boima Jerry Karpeh (90+1) volleyed in a blinder,but could not find the winner in the six added minutes.
The loss meant that Pune FC remain on 37 points,while Churchill took their tally to 45. Incidentally,it was Pune FCs first defeat on Goan soil this season.
Pune FCs line-up had three changes from the last game; goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly came in for the injured Abhra Mondal,central midfielder Douhou Pierre (Arata Izumi one match suspension) and upfront Jeje Lalpekhlua replaced Boima Karpeh. Nearing the ten minute mark,Pune FC went in. Douhou on a run squared to Jeje. The striker in turn held off two defenders to find Douhou again,but the cross that followed was straight into the keeper. Two minutes later,the Goans created two half chances. Striker Balal Arezou heading wide and then Tomba Singh went over.
A minute later at the other end,Moga’s half volley went over after utalising Gurjinder Kumars cross from the left.
The best chance of the half was created by Pune FC. A combined effort between Moga,Jeje and Douhou put Karma in the clear on the right.
The winger did well with his effort only to have Denzil Franco clear a yard off the goal-line.
In the 57 th minute,Churchill went close. Ravannan floating the ball from the right sailed over defender Gurjinder Kumar,Churchills Balal and defender Chika only to have Chhetri fall a yard short at the far post.
At the other end,the home side took the lead with keeper Meloly virtually making the move happen.
A careless clearance by the keeper went straight to Henri Arnaud a couple of yards outside the box. A quick release between Tabia and Wali to Bineesh Balan ended with an intelligent angular finish past Anas Edathodika and the keeper.
Five minutes later,Pune FC conceded another goal. From the right,Anas lost a challenge against Henri Antouchet who backheeled to Chettri. The striker in the clear curled his left-footer from the top of the box past a hapless Meloly. Pune FC the brought in Boima in place of Chika to add firepower upfront. Giving everything in search of a goal they had striker Mogas diving header go over from inside the box. At the other end,Shahin produced a brilliant save to deny Chhetri.
Into added time,Pune FC pulled one back through Karpeh. The substitute controlled a long ball on the left on top of the box and unleashed a half-volley past the keeper to bring the game into life. However,Churchill Brothers held on for a deserved win as they successfully posted a hurdle in Pune FCs title challenge.