Vishal Kaith: FCPC's pillar under the post

The goalkeeper was the vital cog in Pune's hunt to maintain a clean sheet in its first leg semi-final and his reflex saves between the posts had a bigger impact on the match than anything else from both camps.

Vishal Kaith of FCPC saves a penalty.   -  Special Arrangement

Vishal Kaith’s airborne save to deny Sunil Chhetri at the Balewadi Stadium should have placed the FC Pune City custodian among contenders for the ‘Hero of the Match’ award, however teammate Marko Stankovic ran away with the award for his good work in the midfield.

The goalkeeper was the vital cog in Pune's hunt to maintain a clean sheet in its first leg semi-final and his reflex saves between the posts had a bigger impact on the match than anything else from both camps.

Read: ISL semifinals: The battle of the custodians

BFC was denied an away goal, worth two goals in the competition, and captain Chhetri could only watch his curling right-footed free-kick miss the target agonisingly by inches. The ball almost drifted into the net, untill Vishal Kaith made a gravity-defying save to tip the ball over the crossbar.

“Conceding a goal is not an option and I kept eyes on the ball. The moment he (Chhetri) kicked the ball I anticipated the direction and did not take my eyes off it till the last moment and it worked,” said the 21-year-old custodian from Himachal Pradesh.

Also read: Bengaluru, Pune fail to breakthrough

It was then Pune City's coach Antonio Habas who decided to retain Kaith in the ISL player draft but the coach had left even before the season started leaving Kaith fighting for his spot under Ranko Popovic leadership. Fighting for a place with Kamaljit Singh, Kaith grabbed the first available opportunity and since then there was no looking back.

Having picked up early goalkeeping lessons from friends when cleaning apple orchards in Himachal Pradesh, Kaith was drafted into the AIFF regional academy and played in I-League for Shillong Lajong before joining FCPC last season. A fan of Spanish shot-stopper Iker Casillas, the 21-year-old will be hoping to have a good return leg.

Also read: Away goal rule forces BFC into must-win tie at home

“The save (to deny Chhetri) or my performance in the semifinal is not the only way I am paying back to Pune City. I was not the most experienced last season (Habas was coach then) and worked hard to get here. I am happy to help my team reach this stage,”

FCPC, needing only a draw on March 11 to book its spot in the final, will bank on jersey no. 13 as the lucky charm under the bar.

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