If the two English managers, the home team’s David Platt and visitors’ Peter Taylor, were anxious before kick off, they were soon off their seats as FC Pune City ran out 3-2 winners condemning the Kerala Blasters to their fourth consecutive defeat.
Nothing had prepared the 9000 plus crowd that included some of India’s top tennis players like Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri and Saketh Myneni, for a rip-roaring opening session with forwards stretching themselves and going for goals.
Mohammed Rafi headed home well under the first 60 seconds of the match after Englishman Chris Dagnall had sent a superb aerial ball from the right wing.
The home team reacted well and counter-attacked with captain and linkman Didier Zokora from Ivory Coast taking up the role of a playmaker. He had a long range cannon-ball shot saved by English goalkeeper Stephen Bywater in the 15th minute.
Clearly Pune did not allow any leeway for their rivals to take control and when Nigerian Kalu Uche used his head to find the equaliser following Nicky Shorey’s aerial ball, the hard game between the two teams had truly begun.
The ploy to work from the left wing through left back Shorey worked wonders; Platt made it so obvious, dropping Richard Johnson from the line up at the start and giving Argentinean Diego Colotto a chance. Shorey could not be far from the action, outwitting two Blasters players and back passing for Uche to score with his left foot. It was the Nigerian’s fourth goal in the ongoing competition, scored at the half way stage of the first session.
But Rafi who had an injury scare, found the target again with a brilliantly timed header in front of the box. The ball crossed the goal line though only after hitting the right and left post. This time Spanish midfielder Josu Currias floated the ball into the penalty area from the left for Rafi to register his fourth goal of the tournament giving Gouramangi Singh no chance to clear.
The Blasters tried their tricks with the long aerial balls; it was a trifle unlucky that Josu was not able to hit home before half time and give his team a 3-2 advantage.
Johnson replaced Colotto at the start of the second session, and thereafter Dharmaraj Ravanan came in for Pritam Kotal and Yendrick Ruiz for Tuncay Sanli, after the later had put his team ahead with a 72nd minute header.
The visitor too made changes, which included Cavin Lobo coming in for Rafi. Lobo made one last ditch effort to share points, but Steven Simonsen firmly took control of the ball. Five goals in the match was a fantastic treat for the spectators, a super win for the home team and another demoralising defeat for the Blasters.