Naven Venkat discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Pune City 5-0 NorthEast United
This fixture saw FC Pune City go up against bottom dwellers North East United FC who were in a slump after losing 3 consecutive matches before this one. They did not fare too well as they crashed to their fourth successive loss as Pune heaped misery on them with the help of a glorious hat-trick by Pune skipper Marcelinho and goals from Ashique and Adil Khan.
Pune City (4-2-3-1): Vishal Kaith; Sarthak Golui, Gurtej Singh, Rafa Lopez, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai; Adil Khan, Marcos Tebar; Jonatan Lucca, Marcelinho, Ashique Kuruniyian; Emiliano Alfaro
NorthEast United (4-3-3): Rehenesh TP; Abdul Hakku, Sambinha, Jose Goncalves, Reagan Singh; Martin Diaz, Rowllin Borges Malemnganba Meitei; Marcinho, Lalrindika Ralte Danilo.
With Ranko Popovic suspended from the touchline for the game, assistant Vladica Grujic was at the helm as FCPC began the game with their regular 4-2-3-1 formation with their full-backs pushing high up the pitch. On the back of several impressive performances, Adil Khan was once again handed a start and served as a shield to the back four while Marcos Tebar forayed forward. This was the modus operandi for the majority of the match as it was apparent from the very first minute that NEUFC were over matched in midfield. Starting with a three man midfield of Martin Diaz, Rowlin Borges, and Meitei, their deficiency in numbers was further exacerbated by Alfaro dropping deep often in the early stages of the game to avoid the attention of opposing defenders and to link up play with the very impressive Ashique and Marcelinho. The Pune midfield outnumbered their counterparts five to three and this prompted the North East defenders to punt the ball forward to beat the press. While the tactic initially worked – as the NEUFC wingers were hugging the touchline and playing on the shoulder of the advanced FCPC fullbacks – it soon proved to be calamitous as a counter by FCPC after one of these failed attacks led to an Ashique tap-in following a deflected Alfaro pass. Following this, Sarthak and Fanai started playing narrow and did not advance as much as FCPC’s midfield began to dominate proceedings.
Marcinho proved to be the only bright spark in white as he looked to single-handedly take on FCPC’s defence. This ploy nearly worked as he forced a great save from Kaith and even managed to hit the side netting. Pune, however, were getting increasingly closer to a second goal and following an injudicious foul by Borges on the edge of the box, Marcelinho stepped up and converted one of the goals of the season with his wand of a left leg. This left NEUFC with a mountain to climb and ‘keeper Rehenesh did not help one bit by embarrassingly letting a Marcelinho drive through his legs. And by the end of the half NEUFC looked down and out. Pune kept sucker-punching NEUFC by allowing them to advance before quickly breaking forward in numbers. The midfield trio of NEUFC kept making the mistake of advancing together which left their backline exposed. Post half-time, this issue was remedied as Borges started to play as an orthodox defensive midfielder while Diaz picked up balls from the defence and initiated plays from the back.
Another tactical move saw NEUFC’s hulking striker Danilo drop deeper to receive and turn. This allowed NEUFC to neutralize the man advantage of FCPC in midfield and this corresponded with NEUFC’s most productive phase of the game. However, the deficit proved to be too steep to overcome and late goals from Marcelinho (sealing an excellent hat-trick) and Adil Khan added further sheen to the already hefty scoreline. Interestingly, FCPC unveiled another formation after the substitution of Jewel Raja for Jon Lucca in the 71st minute. They switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 with Marcelinho joining Alfaro up top while Jewel Raja slotted into the left of FCPC’s midfield. Adil Khan partnered Tebar in the middle and Ashique dropped deeper to play the role of a more conventional winger. This seemed like an interesting formation and may be used as we get closer to the knockout stages.
Marcelinho: Adjudged rightly as the ‘Hero of the Match’, he was a constant driving force in attack with each of his three goals highlighting his genius on the ball. Wreaked havoc as usual with his clever passes, especially to the young winger Ashique. Coming into form at the right time.
Ashique Kuruniyan: The 20 year old is quickly becoming one of this season’s top young talents with his superb dribbling and superlative vision. Although wiry, he is immensely strong and held off defenders with ease. Has an almost telepathic understanding with Tebar and Alfaro and seems very composed on the ball.
Marcos Tebar: Was head and shoulders above everyone on the night. His silky touch mixed with his tenacity in the tackle took the game away from NEUFC early in the game. Recycled possession with ease and brought the wingers into play often. His partnership with the more defensive minded Adil Khan is allowing for FCPC’s midfield domination ever so often in the past few matchdays.
NEUFC: The first 25 minutes of NEUFC’s second half performance should be the template for how they have to approach the next few games. The midfield, barring Borges, seems to be unathletic and lethargic and hence their press appears to be ineffective. Danilo’s size and strength make him an ideal target man to hold up and distribute play further up the field and should be involved more. De Deus needs to inspire them somehow if they are to break their current streak of losses.
FCPC: Not too many things could have gone wrong in a 5-0 demolition, could it? They need to maintain a high level of intensity and maintain the momentum which has seen them leapfrog several teams to second in the standings. They are peaking at the right time and will be raring to finally qualify for the playoffs.
(Featured image via ISL)
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