Exactly two months ago, David Platt coached FC Pune City played their opening match with gusto and introduced Tuncay Sanli to the world of Indian football in the Hero-ISL season II match at the Balewadi Sports Complex here. The ponytailed attacking Turkish mid-fielders headed home two goals in his team’s consummate 3-1 victory over Mumbai City FC in the Maharashtra Derby match.
Placed sixth in the inaugural season last year, FC Pune City showed much promise in the beginning of the season, but two months into the tournament, Platt’s team will take on Chennaiyin FC here on Saturday with nothing at stake, but a moral duty towards their supporters in the team’s last league engagement. They have been eliminated from the business end of the competition and Platt’s team can have no complaints, having not won a match since October 27, when they beat Kerala Blasters at home.
Battered and bruised, the Pune side had to outwit NorthEast United (NEU) FC in the away match and Chennaiyin FC in the last home match to maintain their hopes of reaching the semifinals. But NorthEast ambushed a 3-2 victory at Guwahati on Wednesday and as a consequence, Platt’s hope of lining up his team in the knock-out stage has vanished. Though it’s all over for the team as far as play- offs are concerned, they can play the spoilsport by getting the better of the visitors, who need a point to secure a semifinal berth. A victory for the home team will ensure Cesar Farias coached NorthEast will qualify.
While it has been sorry tale for Pune, Marco Materazzi’s men have been on a winning streak for 14 days; they thrashed ATK 2-1, Kerala Blasters 4-1, Delhi Dynamos 4-0 and Mumbai FC 3-0. A draw will ensure they reach the play-offs on superior goal average. “I want to thank my boys for creating this unique opportunity for us. There is a chance for us. Because 14 days ago we were last in the table and now we have a chance to qualify for the semi-finals. The thing in this tournament in particular is, if you lose two games you are last, but if you win three, you are amongst the semi-finalists.
In any case, I respect FC Pune City as a team and they've shown that they still have whatever it takes to contribute towards Indian football,” said the former World Cup winner.
Responding to a question on the reasons for his team’s big wins in the home stretch of the league Materazzi said: “It's all about the players. They had the intelligence to put into practice whatever I told them. I told them they had the technical skills to win over their opponents and all that was needed was to play as a team. I think we're here because of the intelligence of my players.’’
The FC Pune City coach Platt answered a number of questions and said his team will take the last match like a professional team would do. “When you get on a run like we have done in terms of getting the results early and getting into a position of promise, to not win for seven games and still be in with a shot of the semi-finals tells you of the level of the league. Everyone has a bad patch, nobody runs away with it. Parity is even there and unfortunately our bad patch lasted for longer than anyone else. That's what you get when you don't win seven games. You don't qualify because that's half the season.
The English coach also expressed how it was important to analyse what went wrong for the club during the season and learn from it.
“It's difficult to describe the feeling. When you're trying to prepare the team especially with the games coming thick and fast, the prospect of analysing as to why you didn't win the previous game or didn't qualify is bleak. You need clarity to think about what went wrong. I think it would be remiss of me to give reasons here and now. It will need a good process of thought to analyse what we could've done differently from day one, in terms of practice, pre-season,” said a dejected Platt.