Raia (Goa), Oct 31 (IANS) I-league side Pune FC began their Durand Cup campaign in style with a comfortable 3-0 win over Churchill Brothers SC in a Group IV quarter-final stage match of the 127th Durand Cup here Friday.
Goals from mid-fielders Dhanpal Ganesh (7th minute), Arata Izumi (51st) and substitute striker Thongkhosiem Haokip (65th) handed coach Karim Bencherifa a convincing win in his first competitive game in charge at the Raia Sports Complex. Tuff Laxmi Prasad SC is the other team in the group.
But it wasn’t all rosy for Pune as their goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was sent off in injury time forcing skipper Izumi to double up as the custodian for the final few minutes.
The game kicked-off early in the morning at a frantic pace and Pune went ahead through Ganesh who scored from a goal-mouth melee.
The goal gave Pune confidence as they pressed to extend their lead. Churchill was banking heavily on star striker Odafa Okolie but he was outmarked by defenders Matthew and Salam Ranjan Singh. Pune kept on pushing and saw several of their players go close to scoring, going into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The second half unfolded in a similar pattern that saw Pune skipper Arata doubling the lead. The India international dribbled past a defender on the edge of the box and chipped the ball delicately over an on-rushing keeper into an empty net and Haokip put the match beyond the reach of Churchill when he scored the third goal.
Okolie was still lively, despite his team trailing by three goals, but couldn’t convert the chances that came his way. Pune’s victory turned sour when keeper Amrinder needlessly picked up a second booking for time-wasting.
Pune FC next play Vasco SC in their second group game Nov 4.