PUNE: FC Pune City showed nerves of steel to put it across Kerala Blasters 3-2 and return to the top of the table in Hero Indian Super League after an entertaining clash in Pune on Tuesday.
FC Pune City were a goal down inside the first minute after Mohammad Rafi gave the visitors the lead. Nigerian striker Kalu Uche then scored two goals in the 16th and 23rd minute to put Pune ahead only for Rafi to score the equaliser for Kerala and restore parity in an eventful half an hour.
After an even first session, Tuncay Sanli scored the match winner for Pune City in the 72nd minute of play.
The victory took Pune City to the top of the league ladder with 12 points, two more than second-placed FC Goa. Kerala Blasters continue to be rooted to the bottom of the pool with only four points from six matches.
Kerala Blasters got a dream start when they took the lead in the first minute itself. Chris Dagnall worked his way down the right flank and crossed it into the Pune goalmouth where Rafi did well to outjump his markers and score in style.
Pune were rattled by the early goal but soon found their feet. The found the equalizer in the 16th minute through Uche, who headed perfectly after Nick Shorey’s cross from the left.
Pune City surged ahead for the first time in the game in the 23rd minute with Shorey and Uche combining to deadly effect. Shorey easily beat Rahul Bheke and Mehtab Hossain on the left flank and the crossed it into the box where Uche trapped it well and slotted the ball past the goalkeeper with a firm grounder.
Amazingly, Kerala Blasters drew level just when the match was half an hour old. Again, it was Rafi who bailed out Kerala Blasters as the striker showed good technique and ability to rise above the Pune defenders to meet Joseu Prieto’s cross. The ball hit the post and bounced inside the net before any Pune defender could hastily clear it.
Kerala Blasters were now well and truly back in the game and had chances to get something out of the game but instead, in the second session, their defence failed them again.
The third goal in the 72nd minute also came from the left for Pune City, through Shorey — who provided the assists for all three goals — as he was allowed the time and space to cross in the 72nd minute where Tuncay showed good composure to finish off the move with a firm header.