Emiliano Alfaro scored his first goal after a long five-game drought and Gurtej Singh logged his first ever goal in the Hero Indian Super League as FC Pune City fought back from a goal down in first 45 minutes to defeat Jamshedpur FC 2-1 and take the top spot at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Pune, on Wednesday.
Jamshedpur probably would have believed momentarily, they were on their way to the top four for the first time when the recent recruit Wellington Priori gave them a 29th minute lead. However, fortunes changed in the second half as Pune City came back into the match and took full points with goals from Gurtej Singh (62nd minute) and Emiliano Alfaro (66th minute).
The three points were crucial for Pune City as they returned to the top of the table with 22 points from 12 matches, now ahead of Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC, both of whom have a match in hand. Jamshedpur is placed fifth with 16 points and was left to rue their missed opportunity to move into the top four.
Much of the home team’s victory today can be attributed to a smart double substitution from Pune City coach Ranko Popovic, who returned to the dug-out for the first time after serving a four-match suspension. With the match drifting out of their hand, Popovic chose to make a double substitution at half-time as he brought in Marko Stankovic (for Jonatan Lucca) and Sarthak Golui (for Isaac Vanmalsawma).
The change worked as Pune City had more thrust going forward and they managed to cancel the first half goal scored by Wellington. It was a howler from the goalkeeper in the 29th minute that allowed Jamshedpur to surge ahead as Vishal Kaith clashed with his own player and allowed Wellington a free aim at goal. Wellington took that chance and scored with the outside of his foot.
In the second session, Pune City struck back. They scored the first in the 62nd minute as Gurtej headed home a corner-kick from inside a crowded goalmouth and then Emiliano Alfaro ‘ who had missed an unbelievable sitter in the opening half — made amends as he was on hand to turn home a beautiful ball by strike partner Marcelinho.
Marcelinho himself could have added his name to the scoresheet but goalkeeper Subrata Paul came to his side’s rescue in a one-on-one situation with the man who won the Golden Boot last year.
Jamshedpur should have taken at least a point from this game but lacked sharpness upfront. They created several chances to get an equaliser but could not finish it off as the final touch was found wanting.