PUNE: Mandjou Keita and Othallo Tabia gave Pune FC the much needed victory after three back-to-back losses as the home team scored their second win in seven matches beating Air India 2-0 in the I-League at the Balewadi Stadium.
Scoring in different halves, Keita and Tabia were hallmark of Pune FC’s resolve that came from their brand new on loan goalkeeper Abhra Mondal, who underlined the need of strong hand under the bar. Keita converted a penalty-kick in the 41st minute, while substitute Othallo Tabia scored a in the 70th to complete the tally.
The win provided Pune FC a lift from 11th to 9th position as they now have eight points from seven matches. They are just below Salgaocar SC and above Shillong Lajong, who both have same points as Pune FC while Air India stay on 10 points from 7 matches.
Pune FC was a dominant force all throughout and put pressure on the rivals from the start. Ambitious tries from long were the order of the day initially with strikers Keita, Jeje Lalpekhlua and medio Lester Fernandes made hay.
With Mondal doing excellent work under the bar, Pune FC forwards played with purpose as Karma Teshwang and Douhou Pierre troubled the Air India defence. Lester and Jeje too pounced from both ends to give Pune FC the much needed edge.
With the hosts dominating the midfield their constant attacks eventually bore fruit when Keita was pulled down by defender Manjit Singh on a run on the right prompting the referee to point to the spot. Keita gleefully converted.
On the changeover, Pune FC kept up the pressure but slowed the pace. It was during this period that Air- India pushed ahead. But an alert Pune FC goalkeeper Abhra denied them with a brilliant dive to his left to keep out a deflection off Sandeep Sangha’s longranger.
Off Pune FC’s seventh corner, Othallo scored Pune FC’s second. Lester sent in a low corner which was volleyed in on the run by an unmarked Othallo giving no chance to the ‘keeper.