New Delhi, Aug 27 (IBNS): Pune Football Club ended their campaign in the 125th Durand Cup by playing out a 1-1 draw with Sesa Goa FA here at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Needing a win to progress into the semifinals, the result forced Pune FC to finish second in Group-II with two points allowing Sesa FA (4 points) to move into the semifinals.
After taking the lead when striker Jeje Lalpekhlua (90+2’) sneaked the ball home, Sesa FA in a matter of three minutes leveled through Chukwudi Chukwuma.
With hot humid conditions to negotiate, Pune FC all through the day probed the Sesa half and created half chances. Subash Singh set the ball rolling early. Following a long diagonal by Anas Edathodika the striker on the right delivered well only to have the Sesa ‘keeper punch ahead of Jeje.
Pune FC showed urgency and were also casual at times going ahead. Arata Izumi was flagged for off-side twice. Medio Mumtaz Akthar tried to find his strikers, but was long and into the keeper. Karma Tsewang made some good runs on the right but his delivery across always remained long.
Karma then stole the ball from the opponent on the 25-yards out but failed to capatalise. Subash in the meanwhile headed over an Arata cross.
Twenty-three minutes on, Pune FC went deep. Karma swung a cross to Arata who played back to Shanmugam Venkatesh. Chipping the ball from the edge of the box to Jeje the move ended with the Sesa defender clearing just in time.
With Arata caught off-side again, Venkatesh had a half chance come his way from top of the box.
Sesa did well to hold Pune FC and created the best try of the period when Yogesh Kadam chased a long ball on the left and crashed his left footer wide. At the other end, Subash retaliate with a crisp right footer that moved away at the second post after Karma did well to square a pass after getting past two defenders.
Two minutes later Subash was again with a chance after Jeje set him up 12-yards out. What followed was a grounder that the Sesa keeper cleared.
Jeje had a try on the first post. Arata, then, had the best chance of the half to give Pune FC the lead but ended casually taking an angular try from 8-yards into the keeper.
The Pune FC defence all through was in command. Chika Wali cut off a move deep into the box on the right. Srikant Ramu headed out a dangerously floating corner at second post. And then on the brink of half time Anas Edathodika cleared following keeper Amarinder Singh losing an aerial ball met by Chukwuma cheeky header.
Pune FC had one more close chance. Gurjinder Kumar on the left weaved past three defenders and released for Jeje to end up with a soft try from 8-yards.
Resuming the second half, Jeje had the first run into the box. Venky’s looped the ball forward for Jeje who almost connected past the keeper.
Karma bulldozed through and left go a left footer over to continue the Pune FC’s dominance.
In the 51st minute Chukwuma gave the defence an anxious moment. Picking up a loose ball Chukwuma got past Anas but had alert Amarinder dive forward and control.
Sesa pushed forward and looked sharp. The next try was a snap-shot by Chukwuma, despite Srikant challenging into Amarinder.
Pune FC made two substitutions bringing in Nikhil Kadam for Subash and pushed Arata up, before Douhou Pierre replaced Venkatesh. The new legs made a difference, with Douhou getting ambitious with a try from 22-yards out. Jeje before that attempted to connect a half volley but missed.
In the Pune FC half, Mumtaz twice got luck after losing the ball deep.
With eight minutes of injury time added, Pune FC finally opened their scoring. From the right, a determined Douhou push ahead on the right into the box. Releasing at the right time, the ball rolled across the mouth of the goal for Jeje to connect at the far post.
Withing a span of three minutes Sesa scored. Off a corner, Gurjinder instead of clearing danger ended up heading to a Sesa player on the right. A cross to the far end caught the entire defense napping including Amarinder who could have made a attempt to come out and allow Chukwuma head across.
Minutes later Jeje running to a lobbed ball was chased by a Sesa defender and fell. While Jeje claimed a penalty-kick, the referee felt otherwise and showed Jeje a yellow card for a feigned dive.