Despite the presence of international stars Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet on either side, the first game of the Indian Super League at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, failed to live up to the expectations. It wasn’t an altogether unexciting game as spectators could see flashes of brilliance now-and-then; regardless, the match between hosts Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City ended in a goalless draw. In addition, ISL’s third match attracted less than enthusiastic response from Delhi dwellers, though the organizers had roped in tennis star Sania Mirza and film star Lisa Hayden. Another big personality; FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke was also spotted in the stands but football knowledge in India has yet to mature. At its current level, the crowd may not be able to recognize even Sam Blatter. If it were a T20 cricket of any kind, one would not have seen any inch of empty space that showed in yesterday’s football game. But these are early days and expectedly, passage of time could change the scene for better. Moreover, it would be foolhardy to expect cricket-crazy crowd in India to transform into football fanatics overnight.
Delhi Dynamos boast of an impressive line-up of international stars, beginning with the legendary Alessandro Del Piero and the duo from Denmark; Mads Junker and Morten Skoubo. But surprisingly, Delhi began with Del Piero being restricted to the bench. Regardless, Delhi Dynamo played better football than Pune all through the match. Del Piero finally appeared on the scene in the 35th minute and although he made his presence felt, he couldn’t convert any opportunity into a goal for his team. Pune goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi was kept busy by Delhi forwards and but for his brilliance, Delhi would have scored a few goals yesterday. It was pathetic to see Pune City’s uncoordinated game as they lost possession as soon as the ball got to them. Pune should, therefore, consider themselves lucky to hold their more formidable hosts to a draw and steal a point in the process.
At the kick-off, Star performer Del Piero was not seen Delhi Dynamos’ initial eleven as DD’s Belgian coach Harm van Veldhoven decided to send Mads Junker instead. Delhi looked a better side in the first 15 minutes and Veldhoven’s decision to hold back Del Piero appeared to pay off as Delhi came close to scoring in the 11th minute. A header from Junker was cleared away by Dharmaraj Ravanan, who nicely intercepted a clean pass from Bruno Herrero to Morrten Skoubo. Delhi missed the corner that came their way, a little while later. At the end of 35 minutes, Del Piero made his entry to a rapturous cheer by the crowd. The first half ended goalless but Delhi clearly dominated the first 45 minutes. Before the break, Del Piero had found the ball in midfield and sent a good pass to Hans Mulder. But the striker shot it just wide of the left post.
Both teams looked charged up as the second half got underway. Delhi soon earned a corner but Del Piero’s strike went in vain. A little later, Delhi got a free-kick but Del Piero missed that too. Luck deserted Delhi Dynamos further when, Junker received a beautiful pass from Shylo Malswamtulunga in front of the goal. But a good strike from Junker was foiled by Emanuele Belardi. In the 68th minute, Del Piero fired a stinging shot from 25-yeards but his left footer missed the target very narrowly. Del Piero made another attempt through a perfect free-kick with six minutes left but Mulder’s header sailed over the bar. Pune made two substitutions with a few minutes left for the match. Dudu Omangbebi came for Israil Gurung and Merajuddin Wadoo for Katsouranis. With regulation time ending, three minutes were added as injury time. Regardless, the match ended in a 0-0 draw. Delhi got their best chance in the closing stages, when Gustavo Marmentini’s powerful shot struck the woodwork with Emanuele Belardi having been stranded. For Pune, Israil Gurung looked the most dangerous player and provided good support in attack as well as defense but Pune City FC, otherwise remained far from impressive in comparison to the hosts.