Champions Bengaluru FC were thoroughly outplayed by a determined Pune FC 3-1 in their second I-League match at the Sree Kanteerava stadium here on Saturday.
New man Darko Nikac (9th minute), Luciano Sobrosa (25th minute) and Thongkhosiem Haokip (82nd minute) scored for the visitors while Eugenson Lyngdoh scored the only BFC goal in the 89th minute.
BFC coach Ashley Westwood sprang a surprise by employing a 4-3-3 formation with the debutant Lalchhuanmawia, a wing-back, pairing up with Australian Sean Rooney and Beikhokhei Bengaichho up front. Both the recognised forwards, Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh, were left on the bench while new man, Joshua Walker made up the midfield with Thoi Singh and Eugenson on the wings.
The Blues did start the game with the right intent and could have gone ahead as early as in the fifth minute. Lalchhuanmawia found an unmarked Thoi, whose shot sailed over Amrinder Singh’s cross bar.
The miss proved costly for the home team as minutes later, Karim Bencherifa’s men went ahead. A miscommunication between the BFC midfielders allowed Pune’s Thongkhosiem Haokip to find Arata Izumi inside the opposition box. The captain’s faint touch put Nikac in possession with just keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte to beat. Nikac made no mistake in slotting the ball to the bottom left corner.
Not shaken by the opening goal, BFC came close to drawing parity in the 11th minute. Thoi was left unmarked at the edge of the Pune penalty area and the Manipuri lad made the most of the free space to take a shot. Amrinder, however, parried the danger away with ease.
Bengaluru attack remained below par and Pune enjoyed more possession. The spell paid off for the Red Lizards as they went 2-0 up in the 25th minute, with Sobrosa sending in a powerful header off a freekick.
Down by two goals, Westwood brought in Chhetri to rescue the team but the score remained just that at half-time. Robin too was deployed in the second half as the hosts came out with a new vigor and purpose.
BFC came close to reducing the margin in the 60th minute as Thoi found Walker on the edge of the box. Walker produced a quality strike but once again, Amarinder was up to the task, keeping the ball out.
Pune kept the Bengaluru defence on their toes with spells of attacks. And in the 82nd minute, the Red Lizards put the game to bed as Haokip scored his first goal of the season to make it 3-0. Minutes later, Eugenson put one past Amarinder, but it hardly mattered.