Pune FC's dream of making it into the AFC Champions League group-stage came to an end after a 0-3 defeat to Vietnamese-side Hanoi T&T FC at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex at Balewadi (Pune) on Wednesday.
Second-half strikes from defender Sam Gallagher (52nd minute), substitute Nguyen Van Quyet (71st) and midfielder Hector Vaghaun (83rd) saw Hanoi through to the next round of the ACL play-offs.
Pune FC will now play in Group H of the AFC Cup beginning later in February.
Pune FC had the first best chance of the match in the 19th minute after winger Anthony D'Souza managed to get into the clear on the left, he drilled a low shot which the Hanoi keeper Nguyen Van Cong parried away. The rebound, however, fell for Gabriel Fernandes who continued run inside the box.
With the ball awkwardly falling for the Goan, he failed to finish from close range. Minutes later Gabriel's shot from the right was once again blocked by the defence after striker Riga Mustapha sent him in the clear.
At the other end, Pune FC custodian Amrinder Singh kept the visitors at bay with two back-to-back saves denying attackers PT Luong and NN Duy.
Both sides failed to break the deadlock going into the breather.
The second-half saw Pune FC once again going close in the early exchanges. Medio Arata Izumi saw his cross in from the right cleared followed by Dhanpal Ganesh's low shot straight into the keeper.
Thereafter, Hanoi took charge of the proceedings and scored the opener seven minutes after restart. Australian defender Gallagher jumped the highest inside the box and headed home Thanh Luong's corner in from the left.
At the other end, Pune FC kept on pressing ahead in search of the equaliser but were let down by the finishing in the final third. Midway through the half, the visitors doubled their lead as Pune's defense was caught napping. Hector, clear on the left, did well to chip a cross into the box and Van Quyet, who timed his run to perfection, headed in from close range.
Into the final ten minutes, the visitors scored once more against the run of play. Sent into the clear on the left by Nguyen Hong Tuien, Hector's outside of the boot shot from the left wing ended up in the net on the far side leaving custodian Amrinder Singh helpless.
Image: Pune FC winger Gabriel Fernandes (#30) misses a sitter from close range in the first half
Photo: PUNE FC