PUNE: Tempers flared, players were shackled, the referee had to keep his cards handy, and FC Pune City coach was sent to stands for dissent right before the half-time.
FC Pune City’s three-match unbeaten home streak came to an end on Friday with an injury-time stunner from CK Vineeth as Kerala Blasters stunned the hosts 2-1 at the Balewadi Sports Complex, which had become the cauldron of chants, with one specific chant echoing louder than other.
Ever since Ranko Popovic was banned for his remarks against match officials, the chants of ‘Referee joker’ say a lot more than just words as the voices of Pune’s ‘Orange Army’ were matched by Kerala’s own ‘Yellow Army’; while the referee had a busy day at the office, with FC Pune City co-owner Arjun Kapoor watching from the stands.
The Stallions skipper Marcelinho would consider himself unlucky as twice after he rattled the crossbar of Kerala Blaster’s custodian Subhasish Roy, Kerala would go on to score at the other end.
Jackichand Singh in the 58th minute opened the scoring with a stunner of his own, where he found the top corner of the net leaving Vishal Kaith no chance whatsoever.
Emiliano Alfaro had restored the parity for hosts in the 79th minute from the penalty spot after Kerala stopper Roy had brought down the Uruguian.
The striker then took the spot-kick himself and put it in the bottom corner.
When it looked like the high-intensity match would end in a draw, which in the hindsight would have been a fair result.
In the beginning of stoppage time, Marcelinho once again found the cross ball with a sublime chip, as Roy had a sigh of relief, but it soon turned into joy as CK Vineeth had other ideas.
In the context of the top four, the game was ever so important for both the sides, as a win would have taken Pune provisionally to the top, who now stay on 22 points. On the other hand, Kerala kept their hopes of top four alive with as they move within two points with 20 points, but have played more games.
The next encounter for FC Pune City is an away assignment where they face NorthEast United FC in Guwahati on February 7.