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Pune FC were handed their first defeat in the AFC Cup as they succumbed to a 3-1 loss to Singapore’s Tampines Rovers at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday evening in a group H clash.

Mustapha Riga put the Red Lizards ahead in the 15th minute from the spot but goals from Miljan Mrdakovic (28th and 69th minute) and Luis Closa (62nd minute) were enough to win full points for The Stags.

Mike Snoei had mentioned of the importance of the game by stating that his side had to go for full points if they harbor hopes of making it into the knockout stages.

On being asked to share his thoughts on the defeat, Snoei said, “First, disappointment. We started well. We scored the first goal from a penalty. Then the other team made it difficult for us. They played more forward because it was 1-0 for us, and we came into trouble. You can say it was individual mistakes and I can see that. When you play back to your goalkeeper (Amrinder Singh), this rule already exists for many years, you cannot pick it up. And we were already one time lucky that the referee didn’t whistle, so the second time he whistled and they scored from that situation.

“The third goal was the same. We gave it away too easy, my right central defender (Anas Edathodika). But I think after the first half hour it was a well deserved win for the opponent. Because they played well, they were patient. You can also see that they really adapt well to the artificial grass. You can see a lot of players slip.

“We trained on the pitch, then you think you can do well on the surface, but for a few players it was difficult to reach the normal level. But it’s not because of the pitch that we lost, but because also the opponents did very well.”

Pune FC lie at the bottom of the group with two points from their three matches. Snoei admitted that it will be difficult for his side to qualify but all was not lost yet.

“It will be difficult. You never know in football, but the other teams must drop some points somewhere else. And you never know. In football everything is possible. Only when you need four points in the last game then it will be difficult. You can say it’s impossible now, but that’s not my character. We will do our best and we will see how things work. We didn’t really reach our level like the Kitchee away game, and that was disappointing for me.”

The former Panathinakos assistant coach pointed that Hong Kong’s Kitchee were the strongest team in the group consisting of Singapore’s Tampines Rovers and Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw besides Pune FC.

“Kitchee is a little bit better than the other three teams, and then the three teams are very close to each other. Kitchee is the best team and the other three, in my calculation, must fight for the second position. Then we draw 2-2 (against Kitchee), we played a fantastic second half in Hong Kong. But then we have a result like this, so that is disappointing because you also know that they won here 5-0. So you get some expectations to everybody, that’s normal in football. But the opponent did very well.”

Battered and bruised in the first quarter of 2014, India will aim to take fresh guard when they open their World Twenty20 campaign against traditional foes Pakistan on Friday in what promises to be a cracker of a contest.

While form favours Pakistan even though they were battered by South Africa in a warm-up game last evening, history would be on India's side as they have never lost to their arch-rivals on all three meetings of the previous editions of the World T20 tournament. (Read: Inzamam fears warm-up loss to South Africa could rattle Pakistan)

The Pakistan national team has played more T20 Internationals than its Indian counterparts, who last played an official T20 International against Australia in October last year. (Pakistan must play fearless cricket against India, say ex-captains)

There will be some great inner battles within the main contest. Shahid Afridi's pyrotechnics against Ravichandran Ashwin's variations, Umar Gul's pace against Virat Kohli's bravado, Saeed Ajmal's guile against Mahendra Singh Dhoni's flair. (Pakistan players upbeat ahead of tournament opener against India)

But then, cricket is a fickle game and India have not had a great run this year so far. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side has won only two official international matches this year having beaten Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the Asia Cup last month. (Read: Kohli, Raina set up 20-run win for India vs England in practice game)

They have lost to all major teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Even they lost to Sri Lanka in the first warm-up game before beating England convincingly by 20 runs in the final warm-up tie to somewhat redeem themselves.

While a victory acts as a morale booster after having inculcated the habit of losing, it would be a completely different ball-game when the 'Men In Blue' take the field against Mohammad Hafeez's men.


It is impossible to think that Afridi's last-over exploits wouldn't play on the Indian cricketers' minds ahead of the game although the format is completely different.


There would be immense pressure on both sides and one can expect a full house at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium as people are going crazy for the tickets of the match.

For Dhoni, there are a number of issues that he needs to fret upon although yesterday's England game was an indication as to what kind of line-up he is planning to field tomorrow.

There are still some concerns with both batting and bowling. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan's performance in shorter versions hasn't been good enough but the skipper is not known to tinker too much with his side.

Also the fact that Ajinkya Rahane, who can be an option as an opener having done the job for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, is also not inspiring confidence of the highest order.

While critics have panned Dhoni for not being flexible with his team selection, he did try something 'Out of the Box' during the last edition in Sri Lanka where Irfan Pathan came in as an opener.

His run-a-ball 31 was one of the primary reasons that India lost to Australia and were subsequently knocked out of the tournament. Dhoni has never really experimented big time after that.

A good start is always crucial as it helps to seize the initiative early on in the match. Both Rohit and Dhawan would be aware that a couple of defeats could mean the end of the road for India in this edition.

The relief for the skipper would be his mainstay Virat Kohli's form. The team's No. 1 batsman looked in great touch against England as he smashed an unbeaten 73 off only 47 balls.

Dhoni's trusted lieutenant Suresh Raina is also showing signs of getting back his touch which had deserted him for the better part of the last season.

A 30-odd against Sri Lanka and a 31-ball-54 against England in two practice games would certainly do his confidence a world of good.

Yuvraj Singh's scratchy form continued as he looked good against the Sri Lankan spinners during the first warm-up game while he played a poor shot in the next game.

However, with four man-of-the-match awards in India's last five official T20 Internationals, Yuvraj is a force to reckon with in this format as he can take the game at any point of time.

Dhoni himself is coming back from injury but he looked in good touch during his 14-ball-21 against England. The skipper's form will be crucial to India's future in the tournament.

The bowling is a worrying factor for the Indian team. Ravichandran Ashwin's form in the run-up to the tournament has been good with economical spells against both Sri Lanka and England.


Ravindra Jadeja also had a decent outing with the ball against England. His terrific fielding and improved batting at No. 8 makes him an automatic choice.


But Amit Mishra hasn't done too well in the practice games and with Yuvraj, Raina, Rohit in the team, there is a doubt whether a third specialist spinner would fit into the scheme of things.

But it will be a choice between Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron as Mohammed Shami is a certainty in the playing XI unless he has a niggle.

Bhuvneshwar's pace has been like cannon fodder for the batsmen and has been easy pickings for batsmen of all teams. Aaron's pace is impressive but he has very little variations which can be a worry for captain during the death overs.

Pakistan were all-out for 71 in their last warm-up game against South Africa but that had more to do with trying to test the batsmen by changing the order.

While Ahmed Shehzad, skipper Hafeez, and the Akmal brothers -- Kamran and Umar -- will be itching to have a go at India, the two fear factors for Dhoni's men will be none other than Afridi and Ajmal.

Ajmal's four overs with the kind of variations he possesses can create a lot of trouble for Indian batsmen. Afridi on the other hand can change the complexion of the game with both bat and ball.

In Umar Gul and Sohail Tanveer, they have a more than capable right-left bowling combination, who are never easy to get away.

In all, brace up for what is going to be a riveting Friday blockbuster.

Teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh.

Pakistan:Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Bilawal Bhatti, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Talha, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Zulfiqar Babar.

Manchester United will take their usual place at the top table of European soccer in the Champions League quarter-finals draw on Friday but like an impoverished lord at a society dinner, they will hope no-one notices their moth-eaten garments.

United will be among familiar faces when they go into the pot with defending champions Bayern Munich and the rest of Europe's elite in the shape of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Paris St Germain.

But unlike other seasons in the past two decades when they have swaggered in with all the confidence of either champions or strong favourites, this season they are simply relieved to be just a part of the proceedings.

And of course, the other guests know all too well that United are turning up as a team in transition with new manager David Moyes enduring a tough baptism after following the retired Alex Ferguson into the job.

Wednesday's spirited 3-0 Round of 16 second leg victory over Olympiakos gave United a 3-2 aggregate win over the Greek champions and a place in the last eight for the first time since 2011, which was also the last time they reached the final.

The win, thanks to a first Champions League hat-trick from Dutchman Robin van Persie, relieved some of the pressure that has been building on Moyes.

He has come under increasing criticism from pundits and fans alike following a series of poor results which has left them seventh in the Premier League table, a distant 18 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Moyes said before Wednesday's win he felt his job was safe and that the board were fully supportive of him, and after steering United into the last eight, he was relishing the challenge ahead but would not say this was a turning point.

He told reporters: "It was a magnificent team performance. I don't want to come out and say, 'this is the moment', but I hope it is.

"We have been asked a similar question before and we have not shown it. This is a work in progress and it will take time to get it as we really want it. It is a big job.

"I have got a lot of things I want to do but the players gave the crowd something after we lost to Liverpool (3-0 at home on Sunday) and we are delighted to see Manchester United in the last eight of the Champions League.

"We played very well and deserved our victory. I'm not feeling any pressure from inside the club... it's coming from you lot (the media).

"We know the job we have to do. It's probably bigger than I thought when I first came to the club.

"And if we go into the last eight as the underdogs, that suits me fine. We can be more than a match for anyone."

While looking towards the future, Moyes showed he still has time for the past with the recall of Ryan Giggs to orchestrate the midfield, and the 40-year-old Welshman did not let him down.

Giggs was making his 140th appearance in the competition, two shy of Raul's all-time record, and he had a hand in two goals, and contributed a series of other telling passes as United took control.

It was also noticeable that United played with a strong and effective spine down the middle.

David De Gea had an outstanding game in goal, Phil Jones was authoritative alongside a rejuvenated Rio Ferdinand at the core of the defence and Wayne Rooney showed leadership qualities in attack.

With Danny Welbeck cutting from one flank and Antonio Valencia, despite a huge swelling on his eye from an early collision, powering down the other, United looked more like the menacing Red Devils of old.

Olympiakos, who held a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, threatened at times and one goal, even when they were 3-0 down, would have been enough for them to qualify, meaning United could never truly relax.

In the end, United held firm to turn the tie around after coming from two goals down in the first leg to win on aggregate for the first time for 30 years.

The victory keeps their season alive and a route open to next season's Champions League, but the only way that United can realistically take part in the elite competition for a 19th successive season is by winning this year's final in Lisbon.

That, though, might just be too much of a tall order for the fading aristocrats at the moment. (Editing by John O'Brien)

Producing yet another emphatic performance, Indian giant slayer PV Sindhu on Friday stunned world no. 2 and the recently-crowned All England champion Shixian Wang to breeze into the semifinals even as it was end of road for Saina Nehwal at the $125,000 Swiss Grand Prix Gold in Basel.

In the men's singles, Parupalli Kashyap also booked a semifinal berth with a hard-fought victory over sixth seed Tien Chen Chou of Chinese Taipei.

Seventh seed Sindhu played a dominating game to assert her supremacy over two-time All England Champion with a 21-17 21-15 win in a 45-minute match to set up a semifinal clash with another fast emerging Chinese Sun Yu.

It was Sindu's third win over Shixian in as many matches.

Last year she had humbled the Chinese at the World Championship in the quarterfinals.

However, Olympic bronze medallist Saina had a tough time dealing with the world number three Yihan Wang as she slipped to a 17-21 2-21, her seventh defeat to a Chinese, in a 38-minute match.

Kashyap, meanwhile, took an hour and 14 minutes to tame Tien 21-15 21-23 21-18 - his second win against the Taiwanese - and would face world number 27 Houwei Tian of China in the semifinals.

World number 9 Sindhu showed once again why she is considered to be India's next big badminton sensation as she produced a beautifully controlled and carefully-paced game to keep Shixian at bay through out the quarterfinal match.

The third seed Chinese did fight hard Sindhu was always on guard and marched ahead everytime Shixian tried to claw her way back.