The substitute slots home the winner as United jolts fancied Pune FC 1-0
The problems in the team had been the talking point when United SC landed here for the Federation Cup. Injury and sickness to a couple of its stars and financial worries have played havoc with United SC this season. Its cup of woe was full when its famed striker Ranti Martins was carried out with a back injury early in the second half.
But just when the chips were down, the Kolkata side found its saviour in Baldeep Singh. Baldeep, who came in for last season’s I-League’s top scorer Martins, struck the match-winner as United jolted the fancied Pune FC 1-0 in the Group ‘A’ league match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Friday evening.
For United, the victory was its first in the Federation Cup.
Pune began as the favourite to take the group honours when the Fed Cup began and progressed to the semifinal.
But on Friday, it was the United defenders, especially S.K. Azim and captain Deepak Kumar Mondal, who stood tall. The United backline denied the Pune FC’s Dutch striker Rahamat Riga Mustapha thrice when he looked set to score.
After a barren first half, Pune got its best chance to go ahead off a corner, in the 57th minute but an unmarked Mustapha headed over from close range.
And near the hour mark, Japanese midfielder, Arata Izumi, offered a well-measured cross from the right but there was none from his team to take it.
United’s goal caught Pune by surprise. Liberian Eric Brown came up with a lovely cross in the 71st minute and Baldeep, sensing a goal, rushed to meet it from the right, and sent it home with a left-footer which gave the Pune custodian Amrinder Singh no chance.
Substitute Thongkhoseim Haokip threatened the United citadel towards the end after being fed by Douhou Pierre, but his effort from the right was pushed out of trouble by Paul.
Later, I-League champion Churchill Brothers defeated home side Eagles FC Kerala 2-1 in a thriller and moved to the top of four-team Group ‘A’ with two wins from as many games.
With that, Churchill qualified for the semifinal. For, even if United wins its next game to tie with the Goan team on points, it has no chance of making the grade as it had lost to Churchill earlier.
All the three goals came in a 15-minute spell in the second half. Balwant Singh headed in a freekick in the 73rd minute to give Churchill the lead but ten minutes later, Eagles’ Sushil Kumar Singh chest-trapped a long ball from Bisheshwor Singh for Koko Sakibo to score.
It did not take Churchill long to find the match-winner with Egyptian midfielder Abdel Hamid Shabana scoring off another freekick in the 86th minute.
That freekick came when the Eagles defender Charles Dzisah brought down Trinidad and Tobago World Cupper Anthony Wolfe. For Dzisah, it was his second yellow and he was given the marching orders.
The result: Group A: United SC, Kolkata 1 (Baldeep Singh 71) bt Pune FC 0; Churchill Brothers 2 (Balwant Singh 73, Abdel Hamid Shabana 86) bt Eagles FC 1 (Koko Sakibo Atanda 83).
Saturday’s matches: Group C: Shillong Lajong vs Mohun Bagan (4.30 p.m.); Mumbai FC vs Salgaocar, Goa (7 p.m.).