Alfaro’s brace earns Pune bragging rights in Maha derby

FC Pune City used their South American connection to good effect to come from behind and edge Mumbai City FC 2-1 in the first ‘Maha’ derby of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune. Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro bagged a brace in the second half after the home team had gone behind from a sublime Balwant Singh strike in the first.

Mumbai began by pressing the home team, and kept taking the attack to them. The Pune defence also found it hard to contain the likes of Balwant and Achille Emana. The Islanders got their first opportunity in the 12th minute when Gerson Vieira ventured forward and fired Balwant’s lay off on target. Stallions custodian Kamaljit Singh was stretched, but came up with the save nonetheless.

That proved to be a warning shot as the visitors opened the scoring three minutes later from a moment of brilliance. Balwant came in from the left and his shot from the edge of the box swerved before nestling in the bottom-left corner to make it 1-0.

That gave the incentive to Pune and they surged forward in search of the equaliser. Diego Carlos tested Mumbai ‘keeper Amrinder Singh for the first time in the 22nd minute by turning near the penalty box and getting his shot away. However, Amrinder came up with a smart save.

The home team continued to attack, but could not find an opening as some strong defending coupled with poor touches in the final third denied them a proper sniff at goal. Pune nearly found an opening on the stroke of half-time after Marcelinho got on the end of a free-kick from just outside the box. The shot, which was on target, was met with another save by an alert Amrinder.

That proved to be the last real chance of the half, as Mumbai went into the break holding onto their slender advantage. The second half started with Pune on the front foot, but neither teams created any clear-cut chances. Sehnaj Singh tried an audacious chip to try and catch Pune’s goalkeeper off guard on the hour mark, but the ball just about sailed over.

The Stallions though, got themselves a lifeline in the 74th minute when Raju Gaikwad was adjudged to have tripped Carlos inside the box. Alfaro stepped up and calmly slotted the ball home, sending Amrinder the wrong way.

Pune then went in search of a winner and substitute Jonatan Lucca had his shot from just outside the box saved by Amrinder nine minutes later. The Islanders could have grabbed a goal in the last minute of regulation time. Vieira, who found some space near the opposition goal, drilled a low shot against the inside of the bar with the goalkeeper clearly beaten.

But instead, they were left to rue the miss as Pune finally got the winner in the second minute of injury time. Lucca picked up fellow Brazilian Carlos with a delightful overhead ball from the centre. Carlos, through on goal, unselfishly teed up Alfaro to tap into an empty net and earn bragging rights in the first derby of the season.

MATCH AWARDS

Club award: FC Pune City
Swift moment of the match: Emiliano Alfaro
Winning pass of the match: Diego Carlos
Fittest player: Lucian Goian
Emerging player: Kamaljit Singh
Hero of the match: Gerson Vieira

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