It was a disappointing defeat for the Islanders as FC Pune City won 2-1 in the second Maha Derby this season. Adil Khan and Iain Hume scored two clinical goals in each half for the home side. A late 91st minute penalty from Arnold Issoko didn’t change the fate of the game as the home side held on for 3 points in both sides’ final league game of 2018-19.
The home side made 4 changes while Jorge Costa made 5 changes to his team which included a debut for Alen Deory and a club-record 50th appearance for Lucian Goian. It was a very positive start from the away side with the boys playing an attacking brand of football. Mohammed Rafique, playing as makeshift right back came up with a marauding run before putting in a cross that was pushed away by Kamaljit Singh.
Paulo Machado came close to scoring in the 8th minute from a free-kick but his effort rattled the crossbar. The next chance fell to Arnold who found himself in plenty of space down the right. He took a touch and unleashed a shot towards goal but it hit the side netting through a deflection.
Despite creating a few chances in the first quarter of the half, the Islanders failed to convert into the opening goal. It was the home side that took the lead through Adil Khan’s acrobatic volley inside the box after he he managed to get behind the Islanders’ backline. The goal gave tilted the momentum in favour of FC Pune City and they started taking control of the game after that.
There was half a chance for the Islanders after Arnold charged down the Pune defence. He made space for himself and took a dig at goal but his effort went wide. The game was heating up as three Pune players were booked in the first half. At the stroke of half-time, Amrinder Singh was called into action after Robin Singh managed to get his header on target. After 45 minutes, it was the home side who lead 1-0 after 45 minutes.
The Boss made a change at the break with Bipin Singh coming on for birthday boy Pranjal Bhumij who had a decent outing. The substitute’s first touch and effort nearly forced an equaliser. He let fly one with his left foot but it Kamaljit was equal to it, making a good diving save. Five minutes later, Lucian Goian beat his marker from a set-piece to win a header in the box but he failed to keep his effort on target and it agonizingly went inches over the crossbar.
At the hour mark, Alen Deory showed good footwork to get pass a couple of defenders in the box but just before he took a shot at goal, Arnold got first to the ball. He had just the goalkeeper to beat but somehow his effort didn’t find the back of the net as it went over the goal. Slowly, the Islanders were finding their rhythm but somehow failed to convert any chance.
In the midst of the action, Marko Stankovic and Paulo Machado were cautioned by the referee. In the 70th minute, Amrinder produced a world-class save to keep Rohit Kumar’s effort over the goal and the scoreline at 1-0. The next two attacks from the Islanders saw a couple of Pune players to be shown the yellow card with Rohit & Sarthak Golui going into the book. The home side had six yellow cards to their name and it definitely felt like a Derby.
With the Islanders pushing ahead in search of an equaliser, they were dealt with a serious blow in the 84th minute with the hosts doubling their lead. Mohammed Yasir got the better of Rafique in a one-on-one situation down the flank and sent in a cross which was finished first time by Iain Hume. With the goal, Hume became the first foreign player to score in all five editions of the Indian Super League.
It looked like a comfortable 3 points for the home side but the Islanders won a penalty in the first minute of stoppage time after Goian was fouled by Sarthak. With the regular penalty take off the pitch, up stepped Arnold Issoko. He showed good composure to slot the ball from 12 yards out and pull one back for the Islanders. With three stoppage minutes left, the game got intense but the scoreline didn’t change.
FC Pune City won the encounter 2-1 and bagged their sixth win of the season to end with 22 points. Meanwhile, the Islanders who had already qualified for the semis prior to the game remained at the 3rd spot with 30 points in their kitty after the final league game.
There will be a week’s time before Jorge Costa and his boys return to action to face FC Goa in the 1st leg of the semi-final at the Arena on March 9. The stakes will be high with both sides pushing to enter the big final on March 17.