Pune FC staged their second consecutive comeback on Goan soil, holding Dempo SC 1-1 in an I-League encounter at the Duler Stadium, Mapusa, on Wednesday. Having finished with a similar result five days ago against Salgaocar FC, Pune FC found striker Riga Mustapha (51st) cancel Roberto Silva Beto’s 47th minute strike.
With the draw, Pune FC finished their double-header in Goa having claimed two points. The one point earned against Dempo SC helped Pune FC (18 points) go level with Salgaocar FC and Bengaluru FC at the top of the table and rest in second spot. Pune FC, with a match in hand, holds the head-to-head advantage over Bengaluru FC, having beaten them at home earlier, but against Salgaocar FC whom they drew against a superior goal difference by the Goans keeps the side from Pune in second spot.
Coach Mike Snoei made just one change to the squad as defender Calum Angus returned to the starting lineup replacing Salam Ranjan Singh. The game began with Dempo SC pushing forward but they were denied by Pune FC custodian Amrinder Singh, who produced couple of saves in the first 10 minutes. First he blocked a try from Joy Ferrao and later denied Prabir Dhar. At the other end, midfielder Arata Izumi created Pune FC’s first chance but saw his attempt blocked by the Dempo defence.
Thereafter, both teams settled into the game and began constructing moves. Pune FC once again went close, this time though striker Riga, whose attempt was blocked by defender Selwyn Fernandes.
With both teams failing in the final third with their finishing, the first half ended goal-less. The second half was a completely different story. Dempo SC took the lead almost instantly — two minutes in — as Beto pounced on the loose ball and scored after striker Holicharan Narzary slipped in a pass from the right past defender Srikanth Ramu to catch the defense off guard and allow the midfielder to lash his shot into the net.
However, Pune FC equalised within four minutes. Playmaker Douhou Pierre worked up a square pass to Riga 30-yards out. The striker did well to control, move past a couple of defenders and slot home the equaliser.
The two quick goals saw both teams pressing each other hard. The hosts went close once again 10 minutes into the half. With Pune FC custodian Singh miles off his line, Nazary’s long range attempt went agonisingly close.