A superb brace from debutant Raul Fabiani (16th and 76th minute) gave Pune FC a well earned 3-1 win over Mohammedan Sporting in their I-League opener in Kolkata on Saturday.
Flying high after their recent Durand Cup triumph, Mohammedan Sporting were a given a reality check following Fabiani’s role in Pune’s win.
Not only did Fabiani score a double, he also set up the second goal for James Meyer (52nd) to help Pune FC rally past Sporting, who were leading with an 11th minute after a goal by Joshimar D'silva Martins.
Just after completing his double, Fabiani, who received a yellow card for a hand ball in the 28th minute, celebrated by taking off his jersey but was sent off in the 77th minute for a second booking.
Despite being reduced to 10 men, Pune FC, under new coach Mike Snoei, thwarted Mohammedan Sporting's attempts for a comeback for a fine start to their campaign.
Having been promoted to the top tier after four years, Mohammedan Sporting, egged on by 15,000-odd crowd, started aggressively and made inroads to the Pune FC half.
In the third minute, Ajay Singh missed a chance in front of the open net. They kept attacking which resulted in the first goal of the season when Joshimar struck after being set up nicely by Gagandeep Singh.
Joshimar first smartly headed the ball out of the path of a surging Pune FC goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, and then calmly slotted the ball into the empty net.
Mohammedan Sporting received another spectacular chance three minutes later when Joshmiar backheeled the ball into Ajay Singh's way but only to falter in a goalmouth melee.
Moments later Pune FC equalised with Fabiani scoring on debut.
The lanky Fabiani, a former Villareal B striker and current Equatorial Guinea international, showed fine instinct as he struck from a rebound after Nikhil Kadam's initial drive ricocheted off the post.
In absence of Brazilian defender Luciano Sabrosa (arm injury), Mohammedan Sporting looked fragile as Fabiani showed great reflexes in bringing in the equaliser.
Fabiani was at it again as the lanky forward held off three defenders on the left before squaring it perfectly for Meyer, who struck without a fuss to help Pune FC snatch the lead.
With nothing going in the home team's favour, the visitors struck again when Fabiani utilised a loose pass to fire in his double.