ISL 2018 analysis | Delhi Dynamos outplay FC Pune City at the Balewadi Stadium

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ISL 2018 analysis | Delhi Dynamos outplay FC Pune City at the Balewadi Stadium

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Subhayan Dutta


Delhi Dynamos defeated Pune City 3-2 in their opening game of the ISL, which could be divided into two drastically different halves. However, Pune coach Ranko Popovic would only want to remember his side's positive first-half display and prevent the indisciplined second half that cost them the game.

Pune defence starts with a bang and ends with a whimper

Pune’s gameplan coming into the match was bang on - a star-studded attack that banked more on quality than quantity. However, all their plans went out the window, in the opening seconds, when Jewel Raja limped off and the hosts’ immediate objective switched to measuring their opponent’s strength. However, Delhi’s simple tactics of attacking from the wings to set up Kalu Uche was too obvious and Rafael Lopez and Sarthak Golui didn’t let the Nigerian get close the astonishing 10 first half crosses that were meant for him. At the other end, Emiliano Alfaro, Marcelinho, and Jonatan Lucca were growing in confidence as Pune finished the half as the better side.

Finishing the half confidently meant that Pune didn’t have to change too much, but Delhi did. The visitors made a slight adjustment by getting a midfield runner to support Uche in the box. It paid off instantly as Paulinho’s late run was not tracked and the hosts found themselves a goal down within seconds of the restart. What followed was an utter capitulation. Errors by both centre halves led to the second, while the third - a blinder from Mirabaje - proved to be too much for the fabled attack to surpass.

90s football is back

Delhi were arguably the most exciting team to watch last year, despite winning just 5 games, as the Dynamos scored 27 goals in their 14 games at an average of almost two goals a game. The football was exciting and unpredictable with the likes of Marcelinho, Florent Malouda, and Kean Lewis running the show. This season, however, they have changed the style of play completely and the results, at least for now, appear to be the same. 

To put it simply, Delhi looked like one of those irritating FIFA players who keep the ball in defence, try to get it down the wing with a pacey player, cross it in and hope for the best. While the stats might have shown Delhi having the lion’s share of possession (59%), it was, at least for most parts of the game, all at the back. They had an incredible 21 crosses with just one goal. Pune going Gung-ho after conceding helped their cause and resulted in two more goals but this style of play is not one that is going to get them anywhere close to the playoffs.

Brand new Pune, same old problems

Despite not finishing in the playoff spots in ISL short history, Pune have always maintained a policy of getting big names to their squad. And perhaps, the fault has largely been of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Getting in Greek star Kostas Katsouranis and France’s World Cup winner David Trezeguet in the first season didn’t work well and they finished sixth first season. While they should have developed a squad along those lines, they have since kept revamping it repeatedly. 

Next season, they brought in Romania’s Adrian Mutu and Uche, along with Premier League’s experienced Tuncay Sanli. They finished seventh that season. Even the third time wasn’t the charm, despite bringing in title-winning coach in Antonio Habas.This year they have acquired another set of players with the likes Delhi stars Marcelinho, Kean Lewis, and Marcos Tebar. They need to learn from the likes of ATK and Kerala and hold on to a core group of players so that they can some sort of continuity instead of starting every season afresh.

The Showstopper

While the young Lallianzuala Chhangte was adjudged as the player of the match, Matias Mirabaje could make a serious argument that it wasn’t the right call. Not only does the Delhi No. 10 get a stunning goal to back his claim, but he was their lynchpin in midfield throughout the game. With a passing accuracy of 88% and with as many as three clearances, the South American dominated the midfield both offensively and defensively.

Though he would gladly credit the lightning quick left side - Chhangte and Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte - who managed to contribute massively in Delhi’s staggering 21 crosses throughout the game, the Uruguayan’s composure did the trick for Delhi. He had 71 touches in the game out which he made 56 passes, which reflected his ability to switch things smoothly. 

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