HASC's relegation worries mount

Bangalore side disappoints in 1-2 loss

Pune FCshowed how to finish in clinical fashion as they scored a 2-1 victory over the local side at the Sree Kanteerava stadium here on Sunday to further dent HASC’s chances of staying in division one of the I-League.

The Aircraftmen dominated the bulk of the match, creating several openings, but apart from a goal from RCPrakash (62nd) -- courtesy a howler from Pune goalkeeper Subrata Paul -- the hosts failed to capitalise on their chances. Pune, by contrast, got their goals through Bangalore boy Lester Fernandes in the 42nd and Mandjou Keita in the 52nd minutes.

“We are very disappointed. We should definitely have won the match. We created a lot of chances but unfortunately, we did not make use of them,” a distraught HASCmanager MMuralidharan said. “But we are still confident of staying up.”

HASC now lie bottom of the table with 20 points from 23 matches, while Pune are seventh on 24 points from 23.

The home side started brightly, taking control of possession, with Pune FC failing to adapt to the ground conditions. Nigerian striker AHamza, who has scored just one goal all season, had a nice early chance but failed to control the ball off a pass from left-winger Malemnganba Meitei. Gautam Debnath, who had a good game despite playing in an unfamiliar right midfield position, then saw his shot from just outside the box go wide.

Paul, the hero for India in the Asian Cup, was having a torrid time, failing to gather cleanly a couple of times. He almost gifted the opening goal to HASC when he missed the ball completely while trying to clear a back pass. The ball, however, trickled agonisingly wide of the post.

The first blow for the home side came in the 42nd minute off a corner. Pune caught out the HASC defence by taking the corner short. Ironically, it was the Bangalore component of Pune that hurt HASC.

Shanmugam Venkatesh played the ball to Fernandes, who calmly cut in from the left and curled a brilliant right-footer into the top corner, leaving goalkeeper Rintu Mallick -- who started for an unwell PPramod -- a mere spectator.

It was 2-0 ten minutes later after the outstanding Venkatesh put in a peach of a cross from the right for Keita to head in from seven yards out.

When it seemed as if all hope was lost, HASCwere handed a lifeline. Off an innocuous ball into Pune’s penalty box from right back RSreekanth, Paul, under no real pressure, failed to gather cleanly and the ball fell kindly to Prakash, who coolly slotted into an empty net.

HASChuffed and puffed in the last half hour to find the equaliser, but the Pune backline held firm to hand the Aircraftmen their third straight loss.

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