FC Pune City maintained their spot at the top of the table after playing out a 1-1 draw with hosts FC Goa in an Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao on Friday.
Pune City improved to 13 points from seven matches, one more than second-placed Delhi Dynamos, who have played a game less. The stalemate also benefited Goa who claimed the third place in the points table with 11 points from seven games, overtaking Mumbai City FC (10 points from six matches).
But despite the points, Goa head coach Zico would view the match as two points lost rather than a point won as they were clearly the dominant side, particularly in the first half when they should have scored. The home team created the first real chance of the match in the 10th minute when Brazilian striker Leo Moura slipped in a smart through pass for Thongkhosiem Haokip.
The home-grown forward managed to evade the challenges of a defender and the onrushing goalkeeper with a feeble shot that was valiantly kept from crossing the goal line by a back-pedalling Roger Johnson.
But it was just a precursor to more intense attacking from Goa as they intensified the pressure. They were mobile, swift and utilised the flanks commendably to create chances but failed to take them. Joaquim Abranches, one of the three frontmen employed by Zico, managed to escape the offside trap to be one-on-one with the goalkeeper but placed his shot wide.
Minutes later, midfielder Mandar Rao Desai cut inside a defender and shot a stinging right footer after moving menacingly inside the box but was unlucky to see it rebound off the crossbar.
Pune tried to counter attack but their forward play was disorganised and sporadic. But despite being second best for most of the first half they didn’t concede and went into the break at 0-0.
Goa made amends for their earlier misses as soon as the second half began. Right winger Romeo Fernandes, who was guilty of overindulging from a favourable position in the first half, played his part in the goal. He judiciously delivered a dangerous low cross across the face of the goal that was diverted into the goal by Johnson on 47 minutes, who was trying to effect a clearance.
Pune’s reply to the goal was almost immediate. Nigerian forward Kalu Uche neatly controlled the ball on his chest but his bouncing shot cruelly hit the post.
Goa, however, remained the enforcing side with Moura being their chief creator. He ran at the Pune defence, found open spaces to exploit and essayed accurate goal scoring passes.
Desai wasted such a glorious opportunity when he shot straight at goalkeeper Steve Simonsen from inside the box, trying to put the ball in the far corner. The English shot-stopper was agile and had to be called into action a couple of times when he kept out strong headers.
Goa eventually paid for their profligacy. Substitute Dutch midfielder Wesley Verhoek’s centre was capitalised by Eugensen Lyngdoh with a perfectly timed header at the far post in the 64th minute.
The equaliser gave Pune confidence to move more men forward after being forced on the defensive before the break. They even tested Goa’s Brazilian custodian Elinton Andrade several times who was equal to the task.