Pune FC played out a 2-2 draw with Nay Pyi Taw FC in their AFC Cup 2014 Group-H opener at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex, in Balewadi, Pune, on Wednesday.
In a battle of firsts for both teams, it was attacker Riga Mustapha (9th minute) who gave Pune FC the lead with a wonderful strike. The Myanmar side restored parity through medio Lin Zaw eigfht minutes later.
In the second half, it was the visitors who took the lead through substitute Khaing Htoo (85th minute) before skipper Douhou Pierre’s 22-yard wonder-strike in the 88th minute earned the home side a draw.
The point from the match meant Pune FC occupy the second place in the table along with Nay Pyi Taw FC, behind leaders Hong Kong’s Kitchee (3 pts).
Coach Mike Snoei fielded the same playing eleven from the last match against Mohammedan Sporting, with Thongkhosiem Haokip playing as the lone striker up-front and Douhou continuing to lead in Anas Edathodika’s absence.
It was Pune who went close in the opening ten minutes through Haokip and winger Gabriel Fernandes whose attempts went wide.
The hosts, however, took the lead in the ninth minute through wonderful strike from Riga. After Douhou's initial through ball aimed for Haokip down the middle was blocked, he squared the rebound to Riga on the left. The attacker controlled before curling his effort to the far post, leaving NPT keeper Van Lal Hruai well-beaten.
As Pune FC kept on pushing ahead a small defensive mistake saw the visitors draw abreast.
Medio Zaw Lin capitalised on Dhanpal Ganesh’s poor clearance and scored from the edge of the box.
Thereafter, both teams searched for a goal, with Pune FC having more of the possession.
The second half was a similar story as Pune FC continued to dominate proceedings. However, the visitors defended deep and held on.
In the opening ten minutes of the second half, the hosts went close through Calum Angus, who had a free-kick saved before Haokip’s header from inside the box on his cross was cleared.
Midway through the half, NPT striker Di Peidi Michelle and Haokip had attempts from close range at opposite ends go over.
The visitors took the lead five minutes from time as substitute Khaing Htoo capitalised on another defensive error from Pune FC. Striker Di Piedi headed on goalkeeper Hruai’s long ball and Ranjan Singh’s missed clearance saw Htoo rush ahead and score from close.
However, NPT’s joy was shortlived as Douhou found the equalizer for the home side three minutes later.
Going on a solo from the left wing, the skipper went past three defenders, running across the field, before finishing with a powerful low shot from outside the box.
Pune FC pressed hard in the final minutes of the game but the visitors held on for a draw.
Image: Pune FC skipper Douhou Pierre (Red - #11) goes on a solo past a host of defenders before scoring the team’s second goal in the AFC Cup match against Myanmar's Nay Pyi Taw FC in Pune on Wednesday.
Photograph: Pune FC