Substitute Aser Dipanda Dicka struck late as Punjab FC defeated Indian Arrows by a solitary goal in a Hero I-League encounter in Ludhiana on Monday.
Dicka came off the bench to score an 80th-minute winner for the host, which continued its terrific home-run at the Guru Nanak Stadium.
Punjab coach Yan Law made a couple of adjustments to his lineup with Liberian defender Teah Baysah Dennis starting at the back and Yumnam Raju Mangang making his first start. Punjab FC skipper Anwar Ali was benched with Sanju Pradhan donning the captain’s armband in his absence.
Indian Arrows coach Shanmugam Venkatesh, on the other hand, continued to show faith in his young crop of players and despite being without a win, retained the majority of his previous line-up.
Hendry Antony was given the nod to start, with Ajin Tom making way for him. Suraj Rawat started up front alongside Harmanpreet Singh and Aman Chetri, spearheading what seemed like a 3-4-3 formation.
Buoyed by its win over defending champion Chennai City FC, Punjab started the match on a bright note but any real threat it tried to stitch together was successfully thwarted by the Arrows defence, frustrating the likes of Jason Hart and Sergio Barboza Jr throughout the first half.
The game suddenly burst to life in the dying seconds of the half, when in the 45th minute, Punjab earned a free-kick on the left flank, 30 yards from goal. Sanju Pradhan stepped up to take it, and instead of delivering a cross towards the lurking Punjab shirts, swerved one on target.
Arrows goalkeeper Samik Mitra recovered just in time to make an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Second half got underway in a cagey fashion, with the majority of the game being dominated in the middle of the park.
In the 56th minute, a Calvin Lobo delivery was met by a diving header from Sergio Barboza, but unlike his goal against Chennai, his attempt this time lacked the venom to cause Arrows goalie Samik Mitra any real trouble.
At the hour mark, Dicka was introduced with Jason Hart making way for him. Just like the previous game, the Cameroonian striker proved to be the igniting catalyst.
In the 77th minute, a delicious cross from Sanju Pradhan was headed on target by Dicka, only to be denied by Samik Mitra.
However, the Arrows finally capitulated under pressure, when in the 80th minute, a miscue in the box led to Dicka finding some space, and with the ball lurking above his shoulders, the super sub fired home with an acrobatic overhead kick to send the hosts in front.
The Arrows roared back with real intent, showcasing the right ideas but lacked execution in the final third as Punjab FC registered its second victory on the trot.
The win takes Yan Law’s side to the second place in the 13th Hero I-League standings while the Indian Arrows, which is yet to open its account, remains second from the bottom in the standings.
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