Nai Pyi Taw: Pune FC played out a 3-3 draw against Nay Pyi Taw FC in an AFC Cup group match to virtually end their hopes of advancing to the next stage in Nai Pyi Taw on Tuesday. Substitute striker Thongkhoseim Haokip (36th minute) put Pune FC ahead in the first half before striker Aung Naing (42nd) equalised for the hosts three minutes before the break in the Group H Round 5 encounter at the Paung Laung Stadium.
Pune once again took the lead through medio Arata Izumi (55th) before strikes from Nyien Tazar Win (62nd) and Khaing Htoo (72nd) put Nay Pyi Taw in the lead.
However, defender Calum Angus struck in 80th minute to pull Pune FC level. Skipper Douhou Pierre wasted a penalty early on in the second half as Pune FC fell short of recording their first-ever win on the continental stage. Pune FC's third draw in the group-stage saw them stay fourth in the table with three points and virtually ended their hopes of progression to the next round. Coach Mike Snoei made five changes to the lineup handing starts to Arup Debnath, Gurjinder Kumar, Arata Izumi, Prakash Thorat and Mirjan Pavlovic. In hot conditions, it was Nay Pyi Taw who took the initiative in the opening exchanges with Pune FC defending deep before finally settling down. While settling into the game, Pune received a blow in the 10th minute when striker Pavlovic limped off after Obadin Gabriel's heavy tackle on him and was replaced by Haokip.
As the hosts started creating chances, Pune FC had custodian Arup to thank as he pulled of a string of saves. First, he acrobatically tipped over striker Carlos Delgado's shot from the left and then denied Zaw Lin from close range. After half chances at either end, Pune FC finally took the lead in the 36th minute. With the NPT goalkeeper Vanlal Hruai failing to clear a long diagonal ball into the box, Haokip capitalised and headed into an empty net for his first goal on the continental stage. Six minutes later, an error cost Pune as the hosts equalised. After Arata lost the ball in midfield, Michele di Piedi quickly switched play to the right where Aung ran into space and scored at the far post to pull the hosts level going into the breather.
The second half was a different story as Pune FC began dominating proceedings. However, in the initial exchanges, the hosts had striker Michele di Piedi go close twice but was denied by Arup on both occasions. Six minutes after restart, Pune FC had a glorious opportunity to take the lead as winger Gabriel Fernandes earned a penalty. However, skipper Douhou Pierre failed to capitalised on it and saw his spot kick being saved by the home side keeper.
Nonetheless, Pune FC took the lead three minutes later. Substitute Nicolau Borges, on for Anthony D'Souza, did well to find Gurjinder who moved in from the left and played Arata through. The India-international controlled the ball finished with a first time left-footed attempt to put Pune FC 2-1 up.
However, Pune FC's joy was once again short-lived as the hosts equalised seven minutes later. Attacker N T W controlled a diagonal ball and beat substitute Srikanth Ramu before pulling Nay Pyi Taw level for the second time. It was Nay Pyi Taw who once again scored against the run of play. On a counter attack, substitute Htoo somehow curled his shot from the edge of the box on the left, into the far corner which hit the inside of the second post, to put the hosts ahead for the first time in the match. Having fallen behind, Pune FC began pushing up aggressively and their persistence paid off as Calum pulled them level in the 80th minute.
Pressing their opponents constantly, Pune FC managed to open up space for Calum who drilled in a low shot at the near post from 30 yards out. Into injury time, Pune FC went agonisingly close to scoring the winner. Douhou got into the clear and rounded off the keeper inside the box but failed to slot in.