Aakriti Mehrotra reports from the press box after Delhi Dynamos recorded their first Indian Super League win following an impressive showing against Chennaiyin FC.
Delhi Dynamos grabbed their first three points of the tournament in a very impressive win. Getting a goal in the first minute of the game certainly helped the home team maintain a high tempo throughout the game. Beating the so far unbeaten Chennaiyin FC and in such a comprehensive fashion showed that the capital city side is definitely not reliant on one player’s performance. Delhi Dynamos are not being carried by Alessandro del Piero, though the Juventus legend had a good showing in Orange colours.
Delhi coach Harm Van Veldhoven made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at the Salt Lake stadium, another game where the Delhi side showed incredible promise. Steven Dias, Mads Junker and Naoba Singh came into the team. Delhi started the game in a 4-3-3 formation and looked pumped in front of the home crowd. Belgian defender Wim Raymaekers put Delhi ahead in 33 seconds with a good strike from outside the box. The center back was set up by a ball from Shylo Malswamtuluanga. Chennai could have equalized within five minutes but Elano was unable to score after Delhi defender Anwar Ali miscued a kick. Chennai had some momentum at the time and Balwant Singh found himself with a goalscoring chance, but his strike missed the goal.
The momentum didn’t last with the visitors as Steven Dias, dubbed the Indian Beckham, put in a Beckham-esque short cross. Mads Junker made no mistake and his diving header put Delhi 2-0 ahead in the game. Junker was however, found unmarked and it was shocking that the impermeable defence of Marco Materrazi’s side was caught wanting like that.
After an action filled first 25 minutes, the game slowed down and most of the action was limited to the middle of the park. Chennaiyin FC were unable to cause any problems to the Delhi defence and there was hardly a moment where the home side looked vulnerable to goals or was under any pressure.
Interestingly, manager Harm van Veldhoven had spoken of the need to pressurize the opponents in the first 20-25 minutes. Exactly like the Liverpool of 2013-14 and the Marseille of this season, Delhi applied this approach and the damage done early on in the game was enough to keep the momentum on their side. The plan to take an early lead, sit back and hit the opposition on the counter worked wonderfully for Delhi.
Marco Materazzi changed things around at half time. He introduced John Stiven Mendoza Valencia and the player partnered Elano up in front in a two-man strike partnership. An attacking approach was visible and you could make out that Chennaiyin were desperately looking to rescue some points. Delhi allowed the visitors a lot of the possession and were content to sit back. The plan worked for Materazzi as well, as Valencia found himself in a great position in the beginning of the second half, but Van Hout spectacularly saved his shot. Elano got Chennaiyin back into the game by scoring an inch perfect free kick from around 25 yards. Chennaiyin got some much needed intensity in their game from there but Delhi effectively sealed their victory after ten minutes. Steven Dias paced on the right flank and found Shylo free in the box. Harmanjot Khabra instantly fouled Shylo and Delhi got themselves a penalty, which Bruno Arias dispatched without a problem. Delhi increased their advantage and made further mockery of the Chennai defence as Gustavo dos Santos, a second half substitute, shot from outside of the box and his shot found the back of the net. He celebrated by taking his shirt off, which earned him a booking, but Delhi’s elation was visible and the scoreline and the gleaming faces of the Delhi team were testament to that.
Delhi have actually done well in their previous two matches as well. They were impressive in their first game against Pune, and were the better side. However, their wastefulness of the first half only got them the one point. In the second game, they took on league leaders Atletico de Kolkata and halted their winning run. Even though they ended up with just another point, the Dynamos actually looked better for most parts of the game and it was another impressive performance from the side. In the match against Chennai, Delhi finally got the result they hoped for alongside an impressive performance.
Two Indians who impressed for Delhi were Steven Dias and Shylo Malswamtuluanga. Dias raised questions about his exclusion from the starting 11 previously. He was bursting with energy, creativity and sheer determination through the match and caused Mendy and co. a lot of problems. He should be starting against North East United next and would hope he can build on from here.
Plenty of credit should go to the Delhi defense, who did a good job of keeping Chennaiyin quiet throughout the game. Goalscorer and defender Raymaekers praised the Indian defenders who take the defensive positions along with him after the game, “Since I am the only foreign defender in the backline, my job is to coach the Indian players and try to help them during the game. They listen properly and take notes and have so far worked well in the defense”.
Materazzi was visibly angry and annoyed at the post match presentation. When asked about his side not scoring and the exclusion of Mendoza from the starting 11, he fumed and asked the journalists if he should play with 11 attackers. Later on, he credited the Delhi side for coming on top but rued Chennaiyin’s defence, especially in the first half. He said, “Losing 4-1 is bad, I want more from my team. The problem was just the defense. In the first half we conceded the goal after the first minute. We changed our structure in the first half after conceding the goals. After pulling one back in the second half, maybe we were better than Delhi. Finally, the penalty took away the game from us”.
From the man who said that his team is the best, before the tournament began, it was a creditable thing to admit that that’s not true. “This is very important. We’re not the best in the league, but we have six points. We have to play hard with pride and believe in ourselves. Today we found out we are not the best. We have to change plenty things,” he said.
Delhi would have hoped for a better crowd, as the numbers were disappointing again, with less than half the stadium filled. But the crowd present made an electric atmosphere and lifted their home team. Hopefully after a positive result, and a winning margin like this, more people from the capital city would be coming in for the games and we will see the massive 60,000 stadium filled at some point of the tournament.
Written by Aakriti Mehrotra