Pune FC qualified for the final phase of the Under-20 I-League after registering a facile 2-0 win over Chirag United Kerala at the Fr. Agnel ground, Navi Mumbai on Wednesday.
After a barren first half, Pune FC opened their account through F. Lalrempuia (64th minute) off a penalty-kick, while William Lalnunfela (72nd minute) completed the tally.
The victory was Pune FC's third on the trot in Group-B (Mumbai) and play Mumbai FC in their final group encounter billed as 'Maha Derby' on Friday to decide the group winner.
Both Pune FC and Mumbai FC (9 points) so far remain undefeated in their respective campaigns and boast the credit of making it to the final phase with a round to spare.
After Round-3 Pune FC (+9) leads the group on a better goal average as compared to Mumbai FC (+6).
Pune FC and MFC now join Shillong Lajong, Prayag United SC (Group-A) and Dempo SC (Group-C). The second team from Goa will be decided on Thursday.
Playing with a near similar side as the previous encounter, Pune FC made one change in the playing eleven bringing in Deepak Kumar for David L.
Early inroads by Pune FC helped create the first chance when Deepak played wide to Suji Kumar on the left flank. Utalising the space, Suji did well to cross only to have Nikhil Kadam moving in from the right head the ball just wide.
Three minutes later, Nikhil returned Deepak the favour by setting up a half volley, which Deepak did connect but went wide in end analysis.
Growing in confidence, Nikhil then cut past three defenders on the right and did well to move into the penalty box, but then once in the clear his try was straight into the keepers' hands.
Abung Meetie followed with a long try but again straight to the custodian
At half time the game remained scoreless.
Four minutes past the hour, Pune FC opened their account when fast moving Nikhil Kada was brought down by defender inside the penalty-box. Puia stepped up and placed the ball to the rioght of the Kerala custodian Sandeep.
Eight minutes later, Pune FC added another goal. James Singh, working hard, found Nikhil in the clear on the right flank. Nikhil, then, did well to play a through ball to William in the center who set off on a solo and finished the ball to the right of the custodian.
Pune FC's qualification to the next round was the second time in four attempts the last being in the 2009-10 season which was initially played in Phagwara and the final round in Kolkata.