Punjab FC continued their terrific home-run with a narrow 1-0 win over Indian Arrows at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Monday, December 16. Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka came off the bench to score an 80th-minute winner for the hosts.
Yan Law made a couple of adjustments to his line-up with Liberian defender Teah Baysah Dennis starting at the back, with Yumnam Raju Mangang making his first start. Club skipper Anwar Ali was benched with Sanju Pradhan donning the captain’s armband in his absence.
Shanmugam Venkatesh continued to show faith in his young crop of players and despite being without a win, retained the majority of his previous line-up. Hendry Antony was given the nod to start, with Ajin Tom making way for him. Suraj Rawat started up front alongside Harmanpreet Singh and Aman Chetri, spearheading what seemed like a 3-4-3 formation.
Buoyed by their win over defending champions Chennai City FC, Punjab FC started the match looking to make home advantage and experience count but any real threat they tried to stitch together were successfully thwarted by the Indian Arrows defence, frustrating the likes of Jason Hart and Sergio Barboza Jr. throughout the first half.
The game suddenly burst to life in the dying seconds of the half, when in the 45th minute, Punjab FC earned a free-kick on the left flank, 30 yards from goal. Sanju Pradhan stepped up to take it, and instead of delivering a cross towards the lurking Punjab FC shirts, swerved one on target. Indian Arrows keeper Samik Mitra recovered just in time to make an acrobatic and fine save to tip it over the crossbar.
Second half got underway in a cagey fashion, with the majority of the game being dominated in the middle of the park. In the 56th minute, a Cavin Lobo delivery was met by a diving header from Sergio Barboza, but unlike his goal against Chennai City FC, his attempt this time lacked the venom to cause Samik Mitra in goal any real trouble.
At the hour mark, Aser Dipanda Dicka was introduced, with Jason Hart making way for him. Just like the previous game, the Cameroonian striker proved to be the igniting catalyst.
In the 77th minute, a delicious cross from Sanju Pradhan was headed on target by Dicka, only to be denied by a ‘Save of the Season’ contender by Samik Mitra.
However, the Indian Arrows finally capitulated under pressure, when in the 80th minute, a miscue in the box led to Dicka finding some space, and with the ball lurking above his shoulders, the super-sub fired home with an acrobatic overhead kick to send the hosts in front.
The Indian Arrows roared back with real intent, showcasing the right ideas but lack of execution in the final third as Punjab FC registered their second victory on the trot.
The win takes Yan Law’s side to the second place in the 13th I-League standings while the Indian Arrows, who are yet to open their account, remain second from the bottom in the standings.
Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka, for his super sub-display, was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match.