Pune: Pune FC ended their campaign in the I-League with a 0-4 defeat to Sporting Clube de Goa in the final game of the season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Saturday.
The result meant that Pune FC (29 pts) finished the season in the fifth place, level on points with fourth placed East Bengal (29 pts), but behind on goal difference.
Meanwhile, this was also the fifth time Pune FC finished inside the top-five in the league since promotion to the top flight in 2009. Interestingly, this was their third 5th place finish after 2010-11 and 2011-12, having finished third in 2009-10, runners-up in 2012-13 and seventh in 2013-14.
In this crucial Round-22 encounter, a hattrick from Nigerian striker Odafa Okolie (27th, 68th, 90+3rd minute) and a goal from defender Sandesh Jhingan (41st) handed Pune FC their seventh loss of the season. Incidentally, it was also Pune FC’s biggest loss this season as well as their biggest loss against Sporting Goa.
Going into the game, Coach Gift Raikhan made one change to the starting lineup with youngster Salam Ranjan Singh replacing the injured Zohmingliana Ralte.
As the game began, it was Sporting who had the early chance when striker Odafa got into the box in the very first minute. However, his powerful attempt from close was saved by keeper Amrinder Singh.
After soaking some pressure, Pune FC began pushing forward almost took the lead in the 16th minute. Arata Izumi’s curling freekick in from the left flank found an unmarked Thongkhosiem Haokip right in front of the goal. However, the youngster failed to get a clean shot and his weak attempt was saved by the Sporting custodian.
As Pune FC continued to push up with intent, a rash challenge at the back from defender Srikanth Ramu on Alber Gonsavles handed Sporting a penalty kick. Odafa stepped up and converted from the spot despite Amrinder guessing it correctly to give Sporting a 1-0 lead.
Despite conceding an easy goal, Pune FC continued to attack the rival goal and had another chance in the 32nd minute. Striker Darko Nikac combined well with Ryuji Sueoka and chipped the ball inside the box to Haokip. However, once again the striker failed to convert and his weak shot was saved by the keeper.
At the other end, Amrinder produced a brilliant save in a one-on-one situation to deny Mahmoud Amna after he was sent clear inside the box by Brandon Fernandes.
Meanwhile, poor defending cost Pune FC, as Sporting scored once again in the 41st minute. Brandon’s curling corner in from the right was controlled and volleyed home by Sandesh Jhingan to double the home side’s lead.
Towards the end of the first half, Ishfaq Ahmed was replaced by Velington Rocha as Pune FC went into the breather trailing 0-2.
At the start of the second half, Coach Raikhan brought in Nikhil Kadam in place of Darko to add more firepower up front.
The move made a difference immediately as Nikhil created a great chance two minutes in. The young winger cut in from the right flank and sent Sueoka through into the box but the Japanese attacker’s shot on the slide was saved by the keeper.
Pune FC kept the pressure on and had a few half chances through Nikhil and Rocha but the home side’s defense managed to clear the attacks.
Midway through the half, once again poor defending cost Pune FC as Odafa got his second. With Pune FC giving away possession in the midfield, Amna picked up the ball and sent Odafa clear. The Nigerian striker held off a challenge from Ranjan on the edge of the box, rounded off Amrinder and slotted home from close to make it 3-0.
Thereafter, Pune FC tried hard to get a goal back in the final quarter, however they failed to penetrate into the rival box.
Into the final moments of the game, Odafa completed his hattrick capitalising yet again on some poor defending. The striker ran clear controlling a lob pass in the Pune FC half and slotted home from close after getting the better of Amrinder and a couple of defenders inside the box and sealed the game 4-0 in favour of Sporting Goa.
Report & Pictures Courtesy: Pune FC