The first Maharashtra Derby of ISL 2017-18 went in favour of FC Pune City with a brace from Emiliano Alfaro winning the game for the home team after Balwant Singh's goal in the first half put the Islanders ahead.
The fiery contest began with the Islanders pressing hard to not let the home team settle into the game, which helped us to have more of the possession in the early stages of the game. Gerson Vieira had the first real chance of the game when he tested Kamaljit in goal with a long range effort that was saved by a diving effort.
It didn't take too long for the Islanders to strike as the pressure finally paid off, Balwant Singh cut inside from the left made space outside the box before unleashing a swirling shot that left Kamaljit helpless. That goal would have definitely given him confidence as he got off the mark for the Islanders in ISL.
Hosts Pune City looked lively after conceding as they kept cool & started to create more chances with the attackers putting our defence under a lot of pressure. Diego Carlos had a chance in the box as he turned and struck a left-footed shot which Amrinder Singh dived to his right for a corner. A couple of minutes later, Marcelinho was through on goal & looked to bury the ball into the far post but was denied by a timely tackle by captain Lucain Goian.
The momentum had shifted & the trio of Alfaro, Marcelinho & Diego were causing all sorts of trouble for the Islanders. Diego found space on the right side inside the box to whip in a dangerous cross across the goal that failed to find any of his teammates. Towards the end of the first half, Sehnaj Singh was shown a yellow card that gave Marcelinho a good opportunity to equalise from the free-kick. He tested Amrinder in goal but the man between the sticks made a fine save to keep the Islanders ahead after a thrilling 45 mins.
The second half began just like the first one with the Islanders putting pressure on the home team. Rozario got a free header in the box which he failed to put on target & extend the lead. At the other end, Pune kept pushing men ahead in search of a goal & whipped in dangerous crossed that was dealt by the Islanders' defensive unit. Rozario, Goian & Gerson were the ones to win headers & make important clearances in the box.
Just over the hour mark, Sehnaj Singh got an opportunity from distance which went just over the bar. The game had certainly opened up with chances flowing at both ends. Alexandre Guimaraes put on the fresh legs by making a double change as Rafa Jorda & Mehrajuddin Wadoo replaced Everton Santos & Sanju Pradhan. FC Pune City survived when a corner from Emana fell to Ruidas on the edge of the box & his shot went just wide of the goal. There were appeals from the players as Lucian Goian was brought down in the box but the referee turned a deaf ear to the protests.
Moments later, Rozario did well to time his tackle to keep Diego away from goal but Raju didn't manage to do the same as he mistimed his tackle to bring him down & give Pune a lifeline into the game. Emiliano Alfaro stepped up & calmly converted the penalty spot by sending Amrinder to the right & the ball to the left of the keeper. The game had been levelled with the scores at 1-1 & 15 minutes left.
Achille Emana stepped up as he kept pushing ahead with the ball & looked to create chances for the Islanders but was lacking support with him. Substitute, Jonathan Lucca was the next one to test custodian, Amrinder Singh with a long range effort straight at goal that he managed to punch away.
With 88 minutes gone, a draw seemed the fair result with both teams doing well to earn a point. The Islanders came close as Gerson Vieira's long-range drilling effort hit the upright of the goal with Kamaljit beaten & coming inches close to the second goal. He wasn't done yet, a minute later, Gerson found space in the box but his header was just wide off the target.
The Islanders were made to pay for the missed chances as Lucca's long ball opened up the defence & Diego Carlos went through on goal with Alfaro in support and just Amrinder Singh to beat. Diego didn't panic & squared the ball to Alfaro who scored the winning goal in the 93rd minute & sealed a dramatic win for FC Pune City.
It was a tough result for the Islanders after being in control of the game but failed to take their chances. Up next is a visit to Kochi as we take on Kerala Blasters on 3rd December at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.