Aakriti Mehrotra watched on from the press box as Delhi Dynamos took the field for their first Indian Super League match. Sadly no goals, but plenty to dwell over.
The chance to watch the likes of Del Piero and Trezeguet in action is not one that many Indians thought would ever come for them and I was lucky to witness both these footballing legends in action. Pune City vs Delhi Dynamos was Delhi’s first home fixture in the Indian Super League and the home side had a lot to take away from the match, and have a lot to work on as well.
In the lead up to the game, there were speculations that a sell-out crowd would be there for the home side’s first match in the competition, but eventually it was all a little too disappointing as not even half the stadium was filled. Of course, it is difficult to fill up a 60,000 stadium but reports of there being disorganization at the various entrances are disappointing to say the least. When you hear that there were people waiting to come inside, but couldn’t because of issues, you can’t help but feel the organisers should have done better in the case. Delhi is not a city with much of a football culture of its own and the opening match was the biggest day for the authorities to ensure that this atmosphere continues throughout the tournament and all the home matches have enough crowd to create a stellar atmosphere.
The JLN stadium gate from which the crowd was entering and the metro station are about a kilometer apart and people were walking to the entry gates. There was an electrifying buzz at the metro station and on the road and sadly this continued even during the match as a lot of people were still outside the stadium because they were required to go from gate to gate due to lack of proper planning and organization.
There is a 10 day gap between now and Delhi’s next home game, against Chennaiyan FC. Hopefully we’ll see more people inside the stadium and an atmosphere will be even more electrifying.
Dependence on an unfit Del Piero
As far as the football is concerned, Delhi played some wonderful attacking football in the first half. There were a lot of counter-attacks in the first 20 minutes itself and Pune looked very vulnerable to them.
Harm van Veldhoven’s side was set up in a 4-4-2 formation. A lot of times we saw forward duo Mads Junker and Morten Skoubo drifting wide before dropping inwards and entering the box. Junker however, was guilty of some poor finishing. He could have got his side the significant three points very early on in the game. Indian attacker Francis Fernandes who was especially impressive in the first half an hour or so operated as a wide-forward or an inwards winger and regularly drifted centrally. However, his crosses were extremely weak even though his link up was strong. He also faded after a while, something he should better. Central midfielders Hans Mulder and Bruno Herrero Arias were the most impressive of the lot during the whole match. They kept running through the course of the match, shifted positions, went wide and Arias and Del Piero (after he was brought on) had some stunning link-ups.
Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero expectedly got a thunderous reception after being brought on as a first half substitute in the first half itself for Morten Skoubo. The World Cup winner showed his class through his amazing first touches and some good free kicks and passes, but his lack of fitness and tiredness was visible. ADP has been the busiest of the Delhi lot as the marquee player who the side went all out for has been involved in a lot of promotional activities. The ex-Juventus player went to Kolkata for the opening ceremony and he looked short of full fitness. Not to mention, he turns 40 in a month’s time. He was still, surprisingly given the man of the match award.
The second half was largely lacklustre barring a few moments. Right at the end, substitute dos Santos hit the post with a shot from outside of the box. Coach van Veldhoven was beaming at the post-match ceremony and even though he called his side unlucky more than once, he was incredibly proud of their performance. He said, “I think with the quality of our forwards, we have a lot of attacking threat. We need to convert from our chances. I feel unlucky because I like to win but I am very satisfied with the performance. They came here for a point- they were playing five at the back at times. They got it.”
Pune disappoint but Lenny Rodrigues particularly impressive
Pune City couldn’t be particularly proud of their performance in their opening game. There was absolutely no creativity in the midfield for them and they were very poor in the counter-attacks. Pune, in fact were, usually seen sitting back and soaking in the pressure, without being able to quickly transition into attack. Unfortunately, David Trezeguet and Israil Gurung were the only players who were trying to make something out of a counter-attack. This was something their coach Franco Colomba rued at the post-match conference. He said, “The problem for us was many mistakes in the counterattack. I think we could have done better without these mistakes in the counterattack.”
For Pune, Indian midfielder Lenny Rodrigues was impressive and he should try to use this game as a spring in his step for the next matches. If he can build on from this match, the 27 year old can end up having a stellar tournament.
Throughout the match, Pune never looked like they had a dominating period and the closest they came to a goal was when a ball, which was not too far from the goalkeeper, was sent in from the right flank to substitute Dudu.
During his prime he was the complete striker, but Trezeguet failed to inspire in front of the goal for Pune. However, his positioning was excellent per as usual, there were no problems with his fitness and he looked sharp throughout. That is a huge boost for the side and Trezegol will surely get chances in the next games.
They were comfortable resting in their own half for most parts of the game and were playing five players at the back for a large period of time. Pune probably came for a point, even though Colomba denied these claims after the game. Van Veldhoven certainly thought that the visitors were only there for a draw.
The heartening thing from the game was that Indians from both sides really did well. Fernandes, Anwar Ali, who sat in defence, and Malswamtulunga were great for Delhi while Rodrigues and Mehrajuddin Wadoo (as a second half sub) had a good game for Pune. At the end of the day, both sides got a point, which they probably deserved. Delhi were too wasteful with their first-half chances and Pune never looked like getting a goal. Both sides have to build on form. Hopefully for Delhi, they have a larger turn-out next time that can perhaps inspire their team to play even better than they did yesterday.
Written by Aakriti Mehrotra
22-year-old history graduate with interest and affinity for football, history, politics and music. Currently Assistant Media Manager, Local Organising Committee, FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.
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