U-20 midfielder Nestor Dias scored the all-important goal of the match.
Both the teams were unbeaten in the group stage as Dempo had defeated Calangute Association and ONGC FC in Group A. While Pune City had routed Dempo Juniors 4-0 followed by a hard fought 1-0 win against FC Bardez Goa in Group C.
Dempo coach Samir Naik was forced to make two changes to his side as Navin Mendes replaced the suspended Mario Mascarenhas, while injured striker Latesh Mandrekar made way for Desmon Pereira. On the other hand, Pune were without their skipper Ashique Kurniyan as the winger was sent off in the last match and coach Anshul Katiyar brought in Omega V. to fill his place in the starting XI.
Dempo took just four minutes to open their tally as their U-20 star Nestor Dias gave no chance to Pune keeper Bilal Khan with a superb overhead shot, off Velito D’Cruz’s perfect free-kick from the right flank. A few minute later, Pune almost equalised when Buanthanglun Samte found Gani Ahammed Nigam with a long cross from the right, but the striker failed to connect his header from point blank range.
Dempo also had another chance to double their lead but Beevan D’Mello headed wide from close after he was fed by Nickson Castanha’s free-kick.
With just 30 minutes on the clock, Pune coach Katiyar replaced Omega with Sachin Karnan as he was booked in the early minutes of the match, while a few minutes later he was lucky to escape without a red card when he stopped Beevan in his tracks.
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Dempo wasted two more golden opportunities in the last ten minutes. First, Kapil Hoble shot wide with only keeper Bilal to beat, after cutting past few defenders in his darting run. In the very next minute, Nickson found Naveen with a curling cross from the right, but the wing-back failed to direct his header from close as the ball went out for a goal-kick.
At the other end, Dempo keeper Agnelo Gomes brilliantly blocked Pawan Kumar’s powerful header from inside the box and kept his side safe as the Golden Eagles went into the breather with a goal lead.
The second half started with dominant play from Dempo as they came up with few attacks on the opponents and in one of these, Kapil almost doubled their lead but his powerful grounded shot missed the target by a few inches. On the hour mark, Velito saw his free-kick nicely pushed away to safety by Pune shot-stopper Bilal. Pune also had a chance to equalise but Rahul Yadav’s shot missed the target by hairline distance.
The last quarter of the match witnessed few more attacks from the former I-League champions, but they could not double the score. First, Tarif Akhand made a timely clearance of Yogesh Kadam’s pass when he was trying to find Kapil in the box. Later, Velito once again came up with a powerful strike from distance but keeper Bilal made no mistake to push it away for a corner.
Dempo coach Naik was happy after making to the maiden final as a coach. “It feels great to be in the final. My boys played well and gave their hearts out till the last minute. We dominated them in both halves,” The former India international said in a joyous tone.