Mumbai: Pune FC maintained their top position in the standings with a hard fought 2-0 win over Kenkre FC in an Under-15 Youth League Maharashtra Zone Round-4 encounter at the Cooperage Football Ground in Mumbai on Friday.
Second half strikes from playmaker Cladeo Nongpluh (58′) and striker Ishan Dey (73′) handed Pune FC (12 pts) their fourth consecutive win to move three points clear at the top of the standings ahead of second placed Mumbai FC (9 pts).
Going into the game, Pune FC Coach Mohan Dass made two changes handing starts to goalkeeper Muhammed Shahad and attacker Gulam Ansari.
In a game of equal exchanges, it was Pune FC who went close first in the 11th minute when Cladeo fired from range. His powerful effort was somehow gathered by the rival custodian. Ten minutes later, hosts Kenkre FC went close when Krish Adhikari set free on a counter attack. However, Pune FC custodian Muhammed Shahad pulled off a brilliant save to keep the score goalless.
Having held on a few attacks midway through the half, Pune FC began pushing up with intent creating a host of chances only to lack the killer finish in the final third.
Nonetheless, Pune FC almost took the lead in the 38th minute when Cladeo found himself clear inside the box. The move began with medio Sachin K. finding winger Mozaffar Ali clear on the right who cut back outside the box to Cladeo. The young playmaker beat his marker to get into the box but fired inches wide from close range. In the closing moments of the opening half, defender Aryan Thite had another chance to give Pune FC the lead, but he hammered his effort wide as the first half ended goalless.
After some half chances early on in the second half, Pune FC finally broke the deadlock two minutes before the hour mark. Cladeo controlled winger Saurabh Salape’s cross in from the left, kept his composure to beat a defender and get into the box before firing across the rival keeper for his fourth goal in as many games.
The goal gave Pune FC a much needed boost as they pushed ahead in numbers. Their constant pressure finally paid off as they doubled their lead in the 73rd minute. A well-crafted move saw Pune FC switch the play from right to left allowing substitute Siddhant Punjabi to set up Saurabh on the left. The lanky attacker floated in an inch perfect cross to Ishan who scored with a thumping header at the first post to take his tally to nine in the competition.
Having taken a two goal lead, Pune FC continued to attack the rival goal and had a couple of really close chances in the final quarter.
First, Mozaffar skied his attempt from close after good work from Saurabh down the left in the 80th minute before substitute Aryan Irani – on for Shreepad Dorge in the first half – had his long range effort saved by the keeper four minutes later.
Hosts Kenkre tried to push up looking for a goal in the final minutes, but Pune FC held on for a well-deserved 2-0 win.