ISL: FC Pune City, Bengaluru FC play out stalemate in first leg semi-final

FC Pune City played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final vs Bengaluru FC in Pune on Wednesday.

football Updated: Mar 08, 2018 09:33 IST
Sarthak Bal
Sarthak Bal
Hindustan Times, Pune
ISL,FC Pune City,Bengaluru FC
FC Pune City played out a goalless draw in the first leg of their Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final vs Bengaluru FC in Pune on Wednesday. (ISL)

From the moment the players stepped onto the field for the first semi-final clash of the Indian Super League this campaign, the dhols had begun to resonate around the compact Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium. A minute had been spared though, just before kick-off in honour of Fiorentina’s late captain Davide Astori. (Match highlights)

And the men behind the dhols — the FC Pune City faithful, would have walked out of the stadium fairly content after 90 minutes of play. The visitors Bengaluru FC had the clearer chances in the first leg of their semi-final match that ended in a goalless draw.

And given Pune’s home record in the league phase — five of their six losses coming at home, including a 3-1 defeat at the hands of their opponents on Wednesday night, the result should be acceptable.

Pune City FC’s coach Ranko Popovic made four changes to his team’s starting line up from their 2-2 draw against Delhi Dynamos.

Marcelinho returned from suspension to replace Baljit Sahni up front. Gurtej Singh replaced Manuel Jesus in defence and midfielders Rohit Kumar and Diego Carlos were also handed starts.

For Alberto Roca, defensive stalwarts John Johnson and Juanan returned after being suspended from the 2-0 win over Kerala Blasters FC, allowing Boithang Haokip to take up his preferred position in attack.

Pune City began on the front foot but could not create any clear cup chances in the first half. Bengaluru FC’s skipper Sunil Chhetri on the other hand almost managed to put his team in front in the 31st minute.

After a foul on Miku, Chhetri positioned himself over the free-kick 20 yards off the goal. The No 11 drove the ball through the wall forcing Vishal Kaith into making an acrobatic save to tip it over the cross bar.

The Indian captain had just minutes earlier danced in from the left, getting passed three defenders to brilliantly lay off to Miku, who could not get his shot away.

Pune City began with a spark as the second half got underway. Alfaro looked intent on putting Pune City in front, attempting two early shots at Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s goal after some great individual work.

Marcelinho too threatened with some wonderful passing skills through the middle. He cut inside from the left in 61st minute to curl it just outside the far post. The Brazilian also put in couple of dangerous crosses in the final quarter, including one to substitute Isaac, who could not direct his first time effort on target, missing what was arguably the chance of the game from close range.

With the away goal rule coming into effect in the semi-final stage of the ISL this campaign, the home side walk away without having spared, what could prove to be a decisive away goal.

The result also means that Bengaluru FC cannot afford to draw if Pune City manage to find the back of the net at the Sree Kramteveera Stadium in the reverse fixture on March 11, but of course Bengaluru FC cannot be easily vanquished at their fortress.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 23:08 IST