Jamshedpur, Mar 5 (IBNS) Defending champions Pune FC kick-started their Under-20 I-League title defence with a 2-0 win over Prayag United Sports Club at the Gopal Stadium, Jamshedpur on Tuesday.
Second half strikes by William Lalnunfela (60th minute) and Lalrempuia (90+3') settled the issue for Pune FC.
The win helped Pune FC continue from where they left off last year. Last year, Pune FC beat the Kolkata side 3-1 in Round-5 of the Final Phase. Statistically, Pune FC took their unbeaten run in the championship to ten, which includes 9 from 2011-12 edition.
Pune FC could have ended with a bigger margin had it not been for the hard and uneven pitch to negotiate.
The champions did the early running through striker Thonkhosiem Haokip who ended short as he chased a long ball played by Lalrempuia. A minute later, Henry Monsang let-fly 35-yard free-kick that whizzed past the second post by inches.
Minutes later, Haokip, chased Abung Meetei's long ball on the right. With keeper Sankar Roy leaving charge, Haokip in a one to one situation with defender Dipak Mondal ended losing the ball with a timely check by the later.
Seven minutes on, Nikhil Kadam from the left forced the custodian to a full length dive to keep out his well struck low free-kick from 30-yards out.
PUSC, meanwhile, took the pressure away from their half with Ronjan Barman connecting a free-kick on-target which Pune FC 'keeper Avilash Paul had no difficulty.
Haokip then had the 'keeper and defender Bidhan Bala check his run in a combined effort.
Pune FC's first close chance came in the 25th minute. Henry swung a free-kick taken inside his half to Nikhil on the right. The left-winger positioned a yard inside the box let go of the opportunity by failing to trap and control.
Holding possession in the PUSC half, Pune FC were many a times done in with miss passes just ahead of the final third. Three corners, Nikhil being robustly tackled time and again led to William missing from 6-yards out.
Medio Karthik played long, found Haokip inside the box on the right. The striker controlled, fended a couple of PUSC defenders before sliding the ball across to an unmarked William. With just the keeper to beat, William ended digging his attempt into the keeper's legs.
Closing out the half, Pune FC survived a scare, when Denechandra Meetei was beaten on the left paving way for PUSC's Rajon confront keeper Avilash. A timely charge and control ended with both players taking knocks.
At half time the score remained goalless.
Resuming the second half making two changes; Rugved Yeole (for Karthik) and Subasish Bose (for Haokip) made a huge difference for Pune FC.
Two minutes into the half, Rugved, collected a Nikhil cross on the left, beat defender Dipak to find himself clear inside the box. His second post try was ended being cut off by the keeper.
Nilkil then had a long ranger into the keepers' hands.
Eight minutes later Rugved and Subasish worked in tandem on the left and creat another chance. Rugved did well to steal the ball and was quick to play a wall pass with Subhashish. The striker in clear released a pile-driver from top of the box that screamed inches over.
Nearing the hour mark, Lalrempuia tested the keeper with a long free-kick.
Having dominated proceedings, Pune FC broke the deadlock when William tapped home from close at the far post a Rugved cross.
Forcing himself clear on the left, Rugved beat defender Dipak and released accurately for William to control and tap past Sankar.
Pune FC then had Narendra Vakhare's cross from the right go abegging with Subasish getting a feeble header and earn a corner-kick.
PUSC, thereafter, dominated the midfield but failed past to get past the compact Pune FC defence who did not leave any space to get through. In one move, Bivash Sarkar ended getting a grounder through, which was a regulation collection for Avilash despite an awkward final bounce.
Rugved then got William in the clear only to have the keeper leave his charge and clear.
Into injury time Pune FC doubled the lead with Rugved once again doing the spadework. Pushing Subasish clear on the left led to open space to relay a cross to the far side. Substitute Shivram, using his presence of mind, did well to use his body and set up Lalrempuia, who ended curling the ball past a stationed keeper from top of the box.