Match report time as we’ve got the joy of looking over the sixth knockout game in the Super Cup ‘proper’ and it was an absolute cracker, so, without further delay, let’s get involved.
Pune Will Walk It
Pune and Shillong Lajong played out an absorbing encounter in which the I-League side came back from two goals down to proceed to the final eight of the maiden Super Cup. Two games in a row now have been belters, it’s getting rather good, isn’t it? Now, if you look at it from the outside in at the stats in isolation without any of the minutes, it looks like Shillong Lajong beat a ten-man Pune and that’s the end of that, however, you can disregard the red card as it came in second-half stoppage time.
Ranko Popovic’s side started like a house on fire and before we had reached the twenty-five-minute mark, they were already two goals to the good after goals from Jonatan Lucca and Marcelinho put Pune in cruise control. Let’s take a look at the first goal, to begin with as that would be the logical thing to do. There aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe Lucca’s goal, so I’m just going to opt with the word peach; a free-kick from roughly thirty yards out was sweetly bent into the top left-hand corner. Pinpoint.
Marcelinho’s goal wasn’t too bad either to be fair to him. It was created through the sheer desire of Marcelinho’s countryman, Diego, as his burst pulled Shillong’s defenders all over the place.
His pass to Marcelinho was perfect and what followed was just as good, if not better. Marcelinho took one touch to set himself and with his second he bent it into the same corner as Lucca did just moments before which meant Nidhin Lal didn’t have a chance.
Pune Are Walking It
I wished I knew what price Shillong Lajong were at that point with the bookies as they were 3/1 pre-game! Nonetheless, it would’ve taken a brave or stupid, dependant on which way you look at it, to back Shillong at that point.
Such is the way football works, only seven minutes after Marcelinho made it two, Pune’s lead was halved as Abdoulaye Koffi remained as cool as you like to beat Kaith after he timed his run expertly. Suddenly, we had a game on our hands, who’d have thought it?
When the next big chance arrived, halftime had been and gone; Ashique just had to touch it into the empty net, that was all he had to do and Pune’s two-goal advantage would’ve been restored. For whatever the reason, sometimes things just aren’t meant to be and if Ashique was destined to score in a cup game for Pune, it can’t have been yesterday.
That wasn’t the only big chance that the ISL side, who finished second in the regular season, missed and they were punished for their lack of conviction by Shillong Lajong full-back Rakesh Pradhan who finished like a striker on a hot streak. As the story goes, it was his first of the season, but he could’ve easily fooled me.
When Pradhan’s effort went in, there was still half an hour left on the clock and the game was finely poised, yet, the teams seem to cancel one another out and it was going to take a moment of brilliance or a moment of madness to change the game. Turns out it was the latter.
Pune Have Messed This Up
Vishal Kaith is a very, very good goalkeeper. I’d even go as far as saying he’s one of the best in the ISL. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to fathom quite why he brought down Shillong Lajong’s forward in the first minute of stoppage time. I could understand if he was through on goal but that simply wasn’t the case. Penalty Shillong. Goal Shillong. Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Shillong Lajong’s skipper, placed the penalty impeccably, if it had been a centimetre closer to Kaith, he would’ve saved it.
Such is the wonder of football. It’s the fine margins that can make all the difference.
Pune threw everything they had to offer at Shillong in the rest of stoppage time but the I-League side held on to earn, in my eyes, a deserved win. Marcelinho was sent off for a bit of old-fashioned petulance in stoppage time as well and that was one of the reasons why he featured in my team of the season, I love a bit of fire at the top end of the pitch.
Pune Have Definitely Messed This Up
Popovic was his usual self when he faced the media after the game and was very gracious in defeat;
“Nothing was wrong. We created many chances but didn’t score the goals. Congratulations to (Shillong) Lajong. I wish them to reach the final and win the cup.”
Fair play. Even when the media tried to give him a reason (the pitch) he simply said this…
“The condition was fine. It was a beautiful game. We just didn’t score the goals after creating so many chances.”
Afterwards, he told the media to write what they want as they had seen the game as well and once more I find myself agreeing with him, they were just trying to bait him with every single question and frankly, that’s not on.
In the opposing dugout, Alison Kharsyntiew was elated with his side’s performance:
“In the meeting before the game I told my boys to give their hundred percent. We won even after going 2-0 down so I want to congratulate my boys for their character and good attitude towards the game. They worked hard and got the three goals.”
That’s all for this one, Shillong Lajong will face Mohun Bagan in the last eight of the competition and Marcelinho & Co have now got a bit of time off. Oh for a bit of that. I jest, of course. Or do I?
Until the next time.