Pune FC exits Durand Cup after loss to ONGC

New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) Pune FC's campaign in the 126th Durand Cup football ended after a 1-2 defeat to ONGC in their final group game at the Ambedkar Stadium here Friday.

Despite putting on a valiant effort throughout both games, Pune finished the quarterfinal group stage in the third place behind ONGC and Army Red in Group-IV.

All three goals were scored in a space of four minutes midway through the second half. Striker Ezeh Henry's quickfire double (61st and 63rd minute) gave ONGC the lead before an own goal by Adeola Md. Hassan (64th) cut down the deficit.

Pune made three changes to the team that faced Army Red Monday. Striker Prakash Thorat, defender Kaushal Singh and goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly made way for Sumit Kumar Dubey, Altamash Sayed and Avilash Paul.

In the opening exchanges, it was Pune who saw most of the ball, as they played a high pressing game. Kiran C and Altamash both saw their long-range attempts go wide in the first 10 minutes, while left-back Gobin Singh had a go at the goal himself in the 12th minute, only to see the ball go over the bar.

As the game progressed, ONGC started settling down, but the oilmen failed to trouble the Caitano Costa-led defence, as the Pune backline held firm.

At the other end, midfielder Altamash, who was involved in many Pune attacks, tried to break the deadlock with a left-footed attempt in the 18th minute, but the shot went agonizingly wide.

Two minutes after the half-hour mark, Gobin made a delightful overlapping run from the left flank and crossed into the box. However, Altamash on the run, failed to connect properly, and the ONGC defence safely cleared the ball away from danger.

A minute before halftime, Pune goalkeeper Avilash was called into action for the first time in the game, as ONGC forward Henry connected a cross from the right flank. The young goalkeeper, however, brilliantly caught hold of the incoming header to keep the score unchanged as both teams went into the break.

Pune continued their forward surge as play resumed. Ten minutes into the second half, Vikas was brought down by Adeola for a second time just outside the box. This time Adeola was booked, but Costa's curling freekick went inches high.

Minutes after the hour mark, ONGC scored two goals in succession, courtesy of a Henry double, to give ONGC an unlikely lead.

For the first goal, the ONGC forward was fouled inside the penalty area by Dubey, and Ezeh made no mistake in disposing off the penalty.

As Pune FC tried to recover from the blow, Henry doubled his team's lead following a swift counter attack from the right.

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