Turkish legend Tuncay Sanli made a stunning Indian Super League debut, scoring two goals to lead FC Pune City to an excellent 3-1 win over Maharashtra rivals Mumbai City FC.
For Nicolas Anelka, it was deja vu after Mumbai had gone down by the same number of goals at the Balewadi last season. On that occasion, Dudu Omagbeni had scored two goals, both assisted by Kostas Katsouranis. On Monday night, Sanli scored two, both assisted by Israil Gurung (who later scored one himself).
Anelka even came on for the last quarter of an hour but by then, it was too late and Pune had the game in control.
Mumbai started off on the front foot, controlling the early exchanges before a stinging counter-attack from Pune gave the home team a lead. Englishman James Bailey played a perfectly weighted pass to release Lenny Rodrigues on the left. The midfielder checked and played it back to Bailey who found Gurung to dummy his marker and send in a cross that Sanli duly thumped in with his head.
It was the perfect counter-attack of sorts -- the ball moved from centre to the left and back to centre again, before being moved to the right for a crossed assist.
But Mumbai always looked menacing with their towering striker Frederic Piquionne winning all his battles in the final third and Gabriel Fernandes and Sony Norde making inroads through the flanks. His physical presence proved too much for Gouramangi Singh on one occasion as the French striker rose to head in a floated cross and make it 1-1.
David Platt surprisingly removed Bailey at half-time for Yendrick Ruiz, moving Sanli into a midfield role. The move however, worked in Pune's favour as they started controlling the match with great ease -- moving the ball around with fluid movements in midfield in what was a treat to the eyes.
It was Gurung again who provided the cross for Sanli to put Pune in front with a diving header. The nail in Mumbai's coffin came 12 minutes later, when Gurung, in acres of space on the right, floated in a cross which confounded goalkeeper Albino Gomes and went in at the far post.
Anelka brought himself in as a last throw of dice, but Platt was in no mood to bolt the doors. Instead, he brought in marquee player Adrian Mutu for goalscorer Sanli, who almost scored from a Gurjinder Singh cross.
Pune's interchanges in defence were remarkable. Gurjinder played left wing in the second half with Nicky Shorey dropping back to his preferred position of left back. Manish Maithani sent in a couple of fabulous crosses on the overlap from right back.
Even in midfield, the duo of Didier Zokora and Lenny Rodrigues proved too much for Mumbai City -- so much so that their best player Andre Moritz was completely marked out of the game and hauled off just after the hour mark.
Mumbai poured forward in numbers in search of a comeback, with the relentless Sony Norde cutting in from the left flank like hot knife through butter, but his low crosses and shots were all blocked by the equally impressive centre-backs Gouramangi Singh and Diego Colotto.
There were two other significant moments as the match came to a close. Anelka beat a couple of defenders and was stopped by a quality sliding tackle from Colotto inside the box just when he was about to pull the trigger. Zokora had done the same five minutes earlier -- two moments which highlighted Pune's calm, composed and measured approach to the game.
Platt and the management made wholesale changes to the side which played last season -- and if the first match is anything to go by, then they've made all the right choices.
The writer tweets @TheFalseNo9
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Updated Date: Oct 06, 2015 09:20:31 IST