Goa: Pune FC was left heartbroken after they went down 0-1 to Salgaocar FC in the final of the 127th Durand Cup at the Raia Sports Complex, in Goa on Saturday.
Despite creating chances throughout their first ever Durand Cup final, Pune FC were let down by wayward finishing in the final third. The runners-up finish meant that Pune FC fell short of capturing their first silverware.
Midfielder Thangjam Saran Singh’s 21st minute strike was enough for Salgaocar to clinch the victory as Pune FC suffered their first competitive defeat under Coach Karim Bencherifa. Furthermore, while Pune FC created a host of chances, it was keeper Karanjit Singh whose saves for Salgaocar proved vital.
Coach Karim Bencherifa made just one change to the lineup for the big final handing a start to defender Zohmingliana Ralte who replaced Srikanth Ramu.
Pune FC began the game on the offensive and created a few chances through medio Lalrempuia Fanai and striker Prakash Thorat, but lack of finishing kept the scoreline unchanged.
As the game progressed, Pune FC was dealt with a big blow as striker Prakash Thorat had to be substituted by Shoaib Syed in the 19th minute after twisting his ankle.
Two minutes later, Salgaocar took the lead. Picking up the ball in the midfield, medio Rocus Lamare played a neat through ball to Saran on the run. The midfielder controlled the ball and slotted past custodian Amrinder Singh from close range.
Pune FC regained their composure and began attacking. However, lack of finishing in the final third was the order of the day.
Couple minutes past the half hour mark, a good combination play between Ryuji Sueoka and Matthew Gonsalves left Lalrempuia in the clear on the right, however his low cross into the box was cleared.
At the other end, Salgaocar winger Gilbert Oliveira had his try from inside the box on the right whiz past the far post. Lalrempuia replied with a crisp long ranger, but he too went inches wide.
Striker Shoaib went close in the dying minutes of the half but his clever outside of the boot shot from the edge of the box was tipped over by keeper Karanjit Singh.
The ensuing corner saw defender Salam Ranjan Singh get into a great position inside the box for the second ball, but his effort sailed over as Pune FC went 0-1 down into the breather.
The second half was a different story as Pune FC began to dominate more.
After some half chances at either end, Pune FC went extremely close in the 67th minute. Lalrempuia floated in a cross from the right to winger Bineesh Balan whose header was cleared. The clearance fell for skipper Arata Izumi whose effort from the loose ball went wide.
Restricting Salgaocar to counter attacks, Pune FC increased their pressure and ten minutes later almost pulled one back. Sueoka’s cut back from the left found substitute Eric Brown who drilled in a low effort. Arata, in the box, tried to put it into the goal with a clever touch only for the attempt to go wide.
Into the final ten minutes, Pune FC once again went agonisingly close. After Shoaib earned a foul outside the box on the right, Eric stepped up and curled in the freekick. The effort at the first post was palmed away by the keeper with a completely outstretched dive.
Pune FC continued to press, but with the home side defending deep, they failed to get a clear shot inside the box before Salgaocar closed in on the win.