Pune: On Friday as FC Pune City team were getting ready to travel to Bengaluru for their decisive Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final return leg against Bengaluru FC, the team was dealt with a major blow.
The head coach of the team, Ranko Popovic, was suspended with immediate effect by the AIFF disciplinary committee for apparent third breach of a code of conduct regarding his ‘public comments’ against the match officials which AIFF flagged as ‘abusive’ and ‘insulting’.
But, in a turn of events, AIFF disciplinary committee has withdrawn the interim suspension of Popovic, meaning that the inspirational coach will be able on the touchline as the Stallions look to create history.
The mood in the Pune’s camp has drastically changed, the joy on the faces of players has replaced the feeling shock and injustice which engulfed the camp on Friday.
FC Pune City will certainly be buoyed by the presence of their charismatic coach on the touchline. But they still have to get better of the emotional roller-coaster and play the semi-final on Sunday night.
In the Wednesday’s first-leg both teams dished out tactical masterclass but failed to find the back of the net. Heading into the second-leg, Bengaluru has a clear home advantage playing in front of their famous ‘West Block Blues’.
Newly introduced ‘Away Goal’ rule will come into play in the game as the hosts will look to go all out against the visitors. A win is a must for Bengaluru to progress. For Pune, it’s relatively easy, find the back of the net, do not lose the game and like they did in the league phase, hold Bengaluru FC to a draw. That will ensure them a place in their maiden ISL final, though it will be easier said than done.
At the Balewadi Stadium, the frontline of both the sides was left frustrated with the watertight defence of their opposition.
Deployment of Adil Khan as a right back and small pitch at Pune meant that Bengaluru skipper Sunil Chhetri and his striker partner Miku were left frustrated. On the other hand, Pune’s attacking trident of Marcelinho-Emiliano Alfaro and Diego Carlos too had very few opportunities to test Gurpreet Singh between the sticks.
Both Gurpreet and his counterpart Vishal Keith are in sublime form this season and would love to prove Indian national coach Stephen Constantine’s decision to call them up for the national team a correct one.
The likes of Chhetri, Miku, Marcelinho and Alfaro, who can change the game upside down with the moment of magic, will have to find that one moment to take their side to the final as one more mouth-watering clash is on the card.
Another game on the lush green turf of Sree Kanteerava Stadium awaits them on next Sunday, which only one of them can play. Record keepers will be keeping their record books handy as more history will be made maybe during the course of 90 minutes, 120 minutes or even with the nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out, who knows.
The animated figure of Ranko Popovic on the touchline will be under the microscope, as he aims to guide his FC Pune City team in to the ISL final.
Statement by AIFF DC
- All India Football Federation Disciplinary Committee in a revised interim decision have provisionally withdrawn the suspension imposed on FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic.
- Ushanath Banerjee, Chairman, Disciplinary Committee in a revised interim decision on Saturday said, “…in the interest of fair play and in particular forthcoming semi-final match of FC Pune City, the interim suspension imposed upon Popovic is provisionally withdrawn subject to FC Pune City providing in writing an undertaking that there would be not an iota of indiscipline on the part of Popovic nor there would be any scope of complain against him till final adjudication of the subject issue following hearing on 16/3/2018.”
- The revised interim decision allows Pune City coach to be on the technical line for the second leg of their semi-final match against Bengaluru FC on 11th March 2018 at Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru.