It was a great season last time out for Pune City as they got their first playoff appearance ever. The Stallions have been close on previous occasions but finally did it last season.
The leadup to the season had a rocky start with Pune changing managers during the pre-season. Antonio Lopez Habas was swapped out with Ranko Popovic. The Serbian did have two months to familiarise himself with the squad before the first league match, but that wasn’t enough to stop a defeat against Delhi Dynamos in the opening match. Dehli ran out 3-2 winners but were never really in any trouble as the second Pune goal came in added time.
That meant they were down in eighth place after the opening round, but the very next matchday saw them bounce into the playoff spots thanks to a 4-1 beating of ATK. Mumbai City were beaten in the following round before the second loss of the season came, this time at the hands of Chennaiyin.
After the fifth matchday, which saw Pune beat Jamshedpur 1-0, they were sitting in third. They dropped down to fourth on the seventh matchday and that was where they would stay for the most part of the season.
A 5-0 win over NorthEast in the final game of 2017 saw them end the year on a high note. The beginning of 2018 wasn’t as good as a 1-1 draw with Kerala Blasters and a 1-0 loss, once again to Chennaiyin, opened up the new year.
Then two wins, over ATK and fellow playoff candidates Jamshedpur followed, before a loss to Kerala. With crunch time approaching Pune put on their big boy pants and smashed out two close wins over NorthEast and Mumbai as well as a draw with eventual regular season table-toppers Bengaluru.
A heavy 4-0 loss to Goa could have been a really embarrassing banana peel to slip on in the penultimate league round, but when Jamshedpur lost to Bengaluru the day after, Pune secured a playoff spot. However, the defeat to Goa would see them fall to fourth after being in third going into the final day. A 2-2 draw with Dehli Dynamos was not good enough when Goa beat Jamshedpur in the final round to leapfrog Pune on head-to-head record.
That meant that Pune would go into the playoffs knowing they would face top of the table Bengaluru.
That proved to be one bridge too far for Pune. A strong home performance, ending in a 0-0 draw, wasn’t enough as Bengaluru ran out 3-1 winners in their playground.
Before this upcoming season, Pune seem to be gearing up for yet another playoff push. Miguel Angel Portugal, a Spaniard ironically, has been brought in to spearhead the operation off the pitch, while Matt Mills is the most famous name brought in on it. Mills has several seasons under his belt in the English Championship and should be a solid defender. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There will be further presentations of all team’s managers and star players coming out soon.