It could have been as poetic a finish as one could imagine. In the 82nd minute, Punjab had conceded two goals to concede a crushing 1-2 defeat to Mumbai City FC last Thursday. Come Tuesday, as the clock struck 82nd minute, a splendid move by Juan Mera resulted in Punjab scoring their first goal of the match against Hyderabad FC at their home, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi. The stage seemed perfect for Punjab FC’s inaugural Indian Super League victory, but a last-minute equaliser by Jonathan Moya dashed their hopes. Once more, Punjab had to settle for a draw as both teams remained in pursuit of their first win of the season.
Under the hazy conditions in Delhi, Punjab FC returned to their adopted home for only the second time this season with significant crowd support behind them. With rampant chants of ‘Let’s go, Punjab!’, the side made an electrifying start with a series of attacks in the opening 10 minutes. Yet, as has been the recurring problem for the team throughout the season, their below-average finishing still plagued Punjab. Ashish Pradhan missed a free header in the 7th minute, and the side’s French winger Madih Talal hit a wide right-footed shot in the 8th.
Hyderabad began to assert control over the match, but Punjab’s solid defense, even in the absence of Dimitrios Chatziisaiasm, held firm, resulting in a goalless score at halftime. In the 16th minute, Brazil’s Felipe da Silva Amorim missed a shot wide of the left post, while Aaren d Silva squandered a relatively easy opportunity five minutes later. In the second half, the Nizams were more aggressive, registering four shots on target, with Punjab’s goalkeeper Kiran making several crucial saves.
Punjab introduced Brandon Vanlalremdika in the 63rd minute, injecting pace into their attacking third. Luka Majcen was ruled offside after a superb counter-attack orchestrated by Brandon in the 77th minute. The breakthrough arrived in the 82nd minute when Juan Mera and French midfielder Madih Talal teamed up to trouble Hyderabad FC’s defense. Talal’s precise pass from the right found Mera, who slotted the ball into the right post, breaking the deadlock.
Hyderabad FC then adjusted their tactics, focusing on wider attacks to stretch Punjab FC’s defense. Mark Zothanpuia identified an unmarked Moya inside the box and delivered a cross that Moya headed home in the 98th minute. Punjab FC didn’t put their foot down, realizing that the victory was within their grasp, as they remained vigilant until the end. Luka Majcen received a long ball and scored, but he was narrowly ruled offside, denying Stakois Vergetis’ side three points in the match.