FC Pune City fought hard for their first point at home after a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) clash at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Balewadi-Pune, on Monday.
Cedric Hengbart scored the fastest goal of this season after he opened the account in the third minute itself but Pune marquee Mohamed Sissoko struck in the 68th minute to rescue a point for the hosts.
FC Pune City was forced into changes at the back after Eduardo Ferreira remained suspended for this match with a red card in the previous match. The choice to have an all-Indian back four was always going to be risky and the coaching staff of Pune were left wondering if they made the right choice after Kerala Blasters surged ahead very early in the game.
The visitors got a dream start through Hengbart who scored the fastest goal in this edition, timed at 2.12 minutes. A corner from Josu Currais was headed out of the danger zone by the Pune defenders. The ball, though, fell nicely for Azrack Mahamat, whose volley deflected of a defender and fell perfectly for an unmarked Hengbart and he made no mistake from close range to beat goalkeeper Edel Bete.
Kerala Blasters, unlike their rivals, had towering foreign defenders at the back and they rarely allowed space for Pune to operate. Central defenders Aaron Hughes and Hengbart combined well, restricting the home side to half chances in the opening 45 minutes.
Most of the chances fell kindly for Dramane Traore. The first came in the 24th minute when a cross from Izumi Arata was missed completely by Hughes and fell at the feet of Traore. He only had to shoot past the goalkeeper but instead shot wide after needlessly delaying his attempt.
Traore wasted another opportunity in the 40th minute when Jesus Tato provided an excellent delivery from the right but the header, under a challenge from Hengbart, sailed wide.
FC Pune City continued with their attacks in the second session, hunting for the equaliser and it was Traore who went close again. A weak back-pass from Josu was cleared just in time by goalkeeper Sandip Nandy before Traore could pounce on the opportunity. When Traore finally headed the ball inside the nets, he was flagged offside.
Pune, however, were not to be denied the equaliser in the 68th minute. A cross from Jonatan Lucca saw Sissoko take a shot at goal which deflected off Hughes and sneaked past the Kerala Blasters goalkeeper.
The draw means FC Pune City picked up their first point at home after losing two matches in a row. They now have four points from four matches, while Kerala Blasters have five points from five matches and are unbeaten in three games.