The wall of white shirts in Mumbai City FC found it difficult to restrict FC Pune City at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium here on Thursday.
In the 72nd minute, Raju Gaikwad cracked under pressure and changed the course of the match. He tripped Diego Carlos inside the box for a penalty kick. Emiliano Alfaro stepped up to convert with ease, neutralising a superbly taken Balwant Singh first-half strike. The pacy Uruguayan swept home the match-winner, his second goal of the night, to steer his side home 2-1 in the intense fixture.
Amrinder Singh, beaten for the first time in the game, defied Pune till then, coming on top in aerial duels and diving to save the ball from touching the line.
He also inspired the sturdy defenders upfront. Lucian Golan, Marcio Nascimento and Gerson Viera displayed the physical side of their game. The Mumbai custodian was left with no option but rush out to hustle Diego Carlos on the break. The latter switched to his left for Emiliano to bulge the net.
Pune tasted its first win at home. The visitor ended up on the losing side after leading in the 15th minute. Balwant’s goal was backed by an outstanding show from the backline, till one tackle and another slip-up in blocking a long pass undid collective work by teammates facing the ball.
Fans from both teams, roaring encouragement, ensured a noisy start to the Maharashtra derby. Gerson Viera tested Pune custodian Kamaljit Singh with a curling right-footer, the latter covered the angle and stretched to his left for a stylish collection. He was caught wanting when Balwant let fly a similar shot, this time the ball flew beyond the goalkeeper’s reach to lodge low into the right corner.
Pune responded with speedy raids on the rival goal, Diego got close with a shot at target too. Gurtej Singh got a chance to head home off a Marcelino floater.
The home team camped in the rival half from then on, the Mumbai defenders closed ranks to deny its rivals space and skipper Lucian led by example.
Rohit Kumar delayed a crack on target after getting time and space; messed up a chance to get his name on the scorers list.
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