Kolkata and NorthEast share the spoils
Iain Hume proved his worth in the Hero Indian Super League once again after scoring a 90th-minute goal to help Atletico de Kolkata hold NorthEast United FC 1-1 at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Kolkata, on Thursday.
The Canadian striker is among the leading goal-scorers in the history of ISL and his strike against NorthEast United helped him score against all teams in the history of the competition.
NorthEast United appeared like they had done enough to seal all points after Nicolas Velez capitalised on a defensive lapse in the 5th minute to give his team the lead but Hume struck in the last minute to earn a precious point for his team. Atletico will be happy with the point which keeps them in the top four with 14 points from 10 matches. NorthEast United spent three weeks at the top after winning two matches in a row at the start but started at the bottom prior to this game. The point helped them take their points tally to 11, the same as FC Goa, but Zico’s team will be placed at the bottom because of their inferior goal difference.
Velez gave NorthEast United a dream start after scoring in the fifth minute. The Argentinean striker could not believe his luck after Henrique Sereno, under pressure from Emiliano Alfaro, played a suicidal ball across for Arnab Mondal, which Velez intercepted on top of the box, rounded off goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and slotted it inside an empty goal. Atletico de Kolkata’s attack was found wanting in the first session and they could not do much to trouble the rival defence. Helder Postiga’s shot in the 28th minute which missed the target narrowly was their best attempt and Sereno could have done better to beat Paul in the 35th minute with his header from Javi Lara’s free-kick.
The second session saw Atletico de Kolkata press hard for the equaliser. A direct corner-kick from Lara almost gifted them the goal but as the ball evaded goalkeeper Paul and sailed towards goal defender Robin Gurung was on the line to head the ball away.
NorthEast United should have killed the game before ATK fought back. In the 72nd minute, Katsumi Yusa’s cross from the right found Alfaro with plenty of time and space to head home but he only ended up picking the goalkeeper. Again in the 82nd minute, Alfaro had another chance from close range but again his header went straight to the keeper at the other end Those clear chances came back to haunt NorthEast United as ATK got the equaliser in the 90th minute. Lara’s free-kick from the right found Postiga inside the box who headed it towards the far post where Hume stabbed it in much to the delight of home crowd.
Pune hope to register second home win against Delhi
Maharashtra side FC Pune City will be mark underdogs as they face off against table-toppers Delhi Dynamos. The capital outfit has been putting teams to the sword this year and now find themselves sitting comfortably atop the ISL table.
The lion’s share of the pressure will be on the hosts as they are fighting tooth and nail to make into the top four for the first time in their history. Head-coach Antonio Habas has brought back the positivity into the side, and he will be hoping for a fine performance from his side against the top side.
FC Pune City
The Stallions began the campaign in the worst way possible with a home defeat against their state rivals Mumbai City FC and struggled playing at the Balewadi Stadium ever since. They have registered just one victory in front of their home fans this season, and will be looking to build on their recent uproar in performances.
Edel Bete is set to continue in goal despite looking a tad shaky with the ball in the last few games, and will hope to set the marking straight as Pune play their final home game of the qualifying stages. Augustine Fernandes slotted straight into the lineup for the last game, forming a back three along with Eduardo Ferreira and Gouramangi Singh. The trio are likely to start against Delhi with Dharmaraj Ravanan and Narayan Das starting as wing-backs.
Indian international Eugensen Lyngdoh is expected to start this game in place of the under-performing Lenny Rodrigues. He will be joined in midfield by marquee man Mohamed Sissoko and Jonathan Lucca. Anibal Rodrigues and Dramane Traore looked to have some sort of an understanding in the past few games, and Habas will be hoping for his front two to tick as he hopes to secure a qualification to the semis.
FC Pune City Probable XI (5-3-2): Bete; Ravanan, Fernandes, Ferreira, Singh, Das; Lyngdoh, Sissoko, Lucca; Rodrigues, Traore.
Things couldn’t get any better for Delhi head-coach Gianluca Zambrotta as he has watched his side play the best football in the country this season and deservedly find themselves atop the pile of India’s premier football competition.
Due credit must also be given to the Dynamos attackers Marcelo Pereira and Richard Gadze. The former leads the race for the Golden Boot in season 3 of the ISL as he has a total of five strikes to his name -a tally only equaled by Iian Hume and Emiliano Alfaro. The latter too, has been quietly going on about his business and his fifth on the list of top goal scorers, finding the back of the net thrice. Marcelo and Gadze are also among the league’s leaders in assists provided with four apiece. Zambrotta will be hoping for a similar performance from his prolific front men.
Delhi’s defence comprising of Anas Edathodika and Souvik Chakraborty has been in stellar form this season and the duo look set to start along side Ruben Rocha and Chinglesana Kosham. In midfield, marquee man Florent Malouda is certain to give his opposite number Lyngdoh a run for his money on Friday, and it will be intriguing to watch the two square off at the Balewadi Stadium.
Delhi Dynamos Probable XI (4-1-4-1): Santana, Chakraborty, Anas, Rocha, Kosham; Tebar; Lewis, George, Malouda; Marcelo; Gadze.
FC Pune City 1-2 Delhi Dynamos
Despite losing their last game against Chennai, Pune’s form has suggested that they are on the rise and no more an easy win as they had been during the start of the season. However, Delhi’s attack looks extremely formidable on paper, and the table-toppers are likely to finish as runaway winners.