If anybody expected a competitive match at the Balewadi Stadium, they were left with frustration and disappointment.
FC Pune City’s poor run of form in the fifth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) continued as they succumbed to a 0-3 defeat against Bengaluru FC on Monday.
After three matches, Pune have just one point and are currently placed ninth on the table.
The Stallions recruited a star-studded squad this season. Former Delhi Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal was brought on board despite Delhi Dynamos finishing eighth under the Spaniard last season.
After his Delhi exit, Miguel Portugal had blamed the Lions ‘ lack of transfer budgets as one of the reasons for poor results. Now at Pune City, which has several star foreign players, Portugal is left with no excuses.
The Stallions were completely outclassed by Bengaluru who did not have to be at their best to claim an easy 3-0 victory away from home.
Pune City’s major chances came through free-kicks. Marcelinho’s curling free-kick aimed at the top corner was brilliantly stopped by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the first-half. The Brazilian had another free-kick saved towards the end but had a quiet match otherwise and looked nothing like the player that led the charge for Pune City’s play-off qualification last season under Ranko Popovic.
Portugal is known to advocate the Spanish style of football. But his teams in ISL have played anything but that. Pune City exchanged square passes and then sent crosses from the wings. The same happened at Delhi Dynamos and now at Pune, there has not been a notable difference in his approach.
Portugal has a lot of work to do to turn things around if he does not want a repeat of last season’s first-half with Delhi Dynamos. By the time the Lions learned his methods, play-off had turned into a distant dream.
Carles Cuadrat’s side stuck to their basics and did not have to sweat to pick up three points. While the use of Harmanjot Khabra in midfield leaves a lot to be desired, the return of Dimas Delgado into the first-team fold was a welcome boost.
The midfield metronome kept Bengaluru ticking and knew when and where to pass every single time he received the ball. He assisted Sunil Chhetri’s opening goal with a wonderful cross-field diagonal over the top of the defence and there was a delightful lobbed through-ball for Miku later in the match that summarised his ability on the ball.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, fresh off his stunning performance for India against China, was brilliant when called into action. Both Miku and Sunil Chhetri will be disappointed not to have scored more, not because they wasted chances but Pune City looked utterly disorganized and were available for a hammering.