Pune FC hopes of extending their winning run in the 115th IFA Shield received a jolt with a 2-0 loss to Mohun Bagan at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan, on Monday.
The home side dashed PFC's hopes when striker Chidi Edeh found the target twice in the first half. The first goal (16th minute) came off a direct free-kick, while the second was a solo effort on the brink of half time. The loss was PFC's first to Bagan in the City of Joy in three encounters. Likewise Bagan remain the only Kolkata side that PFC has not beaten so far.
The defeat pushed PFC to third place in the group, while the win for Bagan assured them a place in the semi-finals by going atop with 7 points. With two matches left in hand, PFC now cannot afford to lose any game.
PFC began the game making two changes to the side that played Chirag United in the opener. In the defence, Lamine Tamba replaced Sunil Kumar, while Shanmugam Venkatesh swapped positions with Arata Izumi in the midfield.
With the game two minutes old, PFC threatened. Striker Mandjou Keita, moving down the left, went close and took a shot on goal. However the ball crashed into the cross bar.
Close on the heels of Keita's attempt, Edmar Figueira found himself in the clear on the top of the box, but could not do much.
PFC dominated from the word go, but at the other end Bagan went the closest. Striker Chidi, in his first run into the box, had 'keeeper N Balaji save his try.
Into the 16th minute and Bagan had Gouranga Biswas earn a free-kick on the edge of the box after PFC defender Caitano Costa cut his run, which also resulted in a yellow card. From the free kick, Chidi did well to beat Balaji to the corner.
Spurred by the goal, Bagan attacked. Gouranga seemed a constant threat on the left with his crosses, but most of all PFC had to counter the threatening runs of Chidi and Muritala Ali. In one such combined effort, Balaji did well to thwart the latter's run inside the box.
Bagan put the pressure as Balaji did a good job under the bar by keeping out an Ishfaq Ahmed try and then Tamba keeping Muritalala at bay.
Seconds before the breather, Chidi got into the clear, and did well to finish off a solo by beating an onrushing Balaji. This was Chidi's fifth goal against PFC and has the distinction of accounting for all goals in his team's wins over PFC, which includes the 3-1 loss in an I-League game in 2009-10.
Changing ends, brought in Arata Izumi for an out-of-form Tamba and Lester Fernandez for Gunashekhar Vignesh to added teeth to the midfield in a bid to attack.
Lester was in action soon, sending his left-footer inches over after Arata played him the pass. But then, at the other end PFC had Balaji to thank for restricting the scoreline. Balaji in a one-to-one situation with Muritala brought off a brilliant save off a try from 6-yards out.
PFc thereafter had a couple of close tries, but all missing the target. Subash Singh (in for J Prasad) missed the horizontal, then Arata had his header go over as the match closed out with no further change in scoreline.
The win took Mohun Bagan (7 pts/ 3 matches) to the top of the group standings. Following Bagan are Shillong Lajong (5 pts/ 3 matches), Pune FC (3 points/ 2 matches), Chirag United (3 pts/ 3 Matches) and Aryans (1 point/ 3 Matches).