What started with a bang didn’t last long, the euphoria was slowing down, and the team was literally struggling and losing steam - 7 matches without a win! Finally, the boys in green were able to break the jinx – a nice morale boosting away win against Pune FC.
Blame it on the unavailability of the key players on crunch games or proper bench strength, HAL was ending up on the losing side. However, today they got their full strength, with wily Xavier VijayKumar back on the side and fielding promising junior national player Shankar S on loan.
Pune FC started on a confident note with Keita Mandjou foraying HAL defense. Pune FC custodian Balaji made a mess of the situation in the 20th minute, however, HAL failed to capitalize the situation.
4 minutes later, HAL scored the only goal of the match much to the disbelief of the crowd. Xavier VijayKumar rolled the ball for Shankar S, which the later passed to Murali J. Murali put the cross for Hamza, which the Nigerian recruit made no mistake in heading to the goal.
HAL showed urgency and were calling the shots in the rest of the first-half. Murali played the game of his life and was in absolute control of the midfield. Perhaps this was something that was apparently missing in the PuneFC game.
Second half saw a defiant HAL packing the midfield. Hamza was brought down in the middle with RC Prakash playing as a lone striker. Xavier Vijaykumar was supporting RC from the right flank.
PuneFC made several attack in the second half, yet they failed to open the goalmouth.
Xavier today was seen playing in his favorite position in the right-flank, he created several chances, and missed couple of sitters. He was adjudged the man of the match.
This victory will definitely help HAL to put a brave show against chart-leaders East Bengal, whom they play on January 22 at Kolkata. However, HAL will be missing the service of J Murali and Shrikant due to double booking.