Hosts Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City played out inaugural Indian Super League’s (ISL) first stalemate as the much-hyped clash between old club pals and ‘marquee’ players of their respective teams – Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet – ended with a drab goalless draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Delhi on Tuesday.
Both teams, with big names in world football spearheading their attacks, promised a lot, but mustered little as the match never got any momentum.
Delhi’s substitute player, Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Santos, with his left footed attempt, came closest to breaking the deadlock at the fag-end of an otherwise uneventful match but he was denied by the post to keep the score 0-0 at full time.
His more illustrious colleagues – Del Piero and Trezeguet – though showed they needed time to showcase glimpses of wide array of skills that have helped them become famous names in world football.
Dynamos began the match with greater intensity. They stitched together passes inside their opponent’s territory and looked more likely to score. But coming close thrice inside the first 15 minutes, their lack of composure in the goal-scoring zone was evident.
Danish forward Mads Junker was the liveliest in the initial stages drawing out a couple of saves from Pune goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi.
Pune had only a weak left-footed shot from their icon Trezeguet to show for their efforts and were mostly pegged back in their half by the hosts.
Del Piero’s introduction in the 35th minute boosted Delhi’s attacking ambitions. Though visibly unfit, his guile and intelligence was enough for Delhi to fathom a strong shout for a penalty soon after his introduction. The referee, however, didn’t fall for the popular demand.
The second session began in similar fashion. Both teams were expected to shake off their initial tentativeness and apprehension for more assured play, but proceedings remained dull and confined to aimless midfield squabbles.
The gulf between the level of competency between Indian players and their foreign team-mates was proving to be detrimental for patient, constructive play as both teams took the easier root of punting long hopeful balls towards their forward line.
Delhi maintained superior ball possession and sensing they had to inject a bit more quality in their attacking play, Pune coach Franco Colamba injected I-League regular and East Bengal player Dudu Omagbemi into action after the hour-mark.
The Nigerian, clearly more adept to the mediocre ways of Indian football, was lively from the beginning. His sharpness allowed Pune to construct decent moves in the Dynamos goal mouth.
Del Piero – Delhi’s biggest hope for the elusive goal – aware of his limitation of not having the legs to run at defenders concentrated on trickery to draw fouls from defenders within the ‘free-kick’ to open the deadlock. But it just wasn’t enough to break the deadlock.
FC Pune City coach Franco Colomba, though content with a point away against Delhi Dynamos, said his side committed "many mistakes" in their first Indian Super League (ISL) match. "I am happy with the performance of our team, considering it is our first match. It was not easy for us. We made many mistakes, particularly in counter-attack. But we hope to rectify these mistakes before our next match and play better," Colomba said.
He said that the match demanded a lot of intensity and energy from both set of players. "It was a very difficult match, physically draining, tactically intense. It demanded a lot of technical ability from the players. It wasn’t easy at all for us, as Delhi are a very good side. They had three-four quality attackers, so we had to be careful," he said.
He said unfamiliarity among players and teams will be a common factor among the first round of matches of the inaugural tournament.
"In the first half, we took time to settle down and analyse our opponents’ game. Both teams were new so it was natural. As all teams of ISL are new, this will be a problem faced by all the eight teams of the tournament," he said.
"We wanted a win but it was difficult to achieve that considering it was the first match of the competition. We will try to rectify our mistakes and win our next match.
FC Pune City face hosts Mumbai City FC in their second match Oct 18.