It was meant to be a joyous homecoming for the most organised and dominant team in the Indian Super League (ISL) – Atletico de Kolkata – at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. Jofre Mateu converted a penalty in the 49th minute to put Atletico ahead. But Czech midfielder Pavel Elias spoiled the party for the hosts with his wondrous 73rd minute curler that helped Delhi Dynamos hold the league leaders to a 1-1 draw.
Del Piero initiates attack
Witnessing Italian World Cup winner and Juventus legend Alessandro del Piero work his magic in the City of Joy had been an eagerly anticipated moment for many of the football fanatics in the city. Needless to say boisterous spectators thronged Salt Lake Stadium to make the match even livelier.
And they got their money’s worth as Delhi began the match with greater possession and even created an opportunity for their revered marquee player Alessandro Del Piero. In the 5th minute Del Piero started darting down the centre only to be brought down by the lightest of touches and was cautioned by the referee for diving.
After the first ten minutes of the match, Atletico started playing with more energy and their excellent passing started coming alive. Jakub Podany who was one of the scorers in Atletico’s second match, made a dash through the left flank only to find the outside of the net in the 15th minute.
Fikru squanders a huge opportunity
The Dada-owned team’s biggest chance in the first half came in the 18th minute when their in-form striker Fikru Teferra Lemessa went through but could not finish a one-on-one with the 6’10’’ Delhi goalkeeper Kristof Van Hout.
Shylo finds the crossbar
The visitors from Delhi were left to rue their chance in the 32nd minute when Del Piero passed the ball to Shylo Malswamtulunga whose shot managed to find the crossbar.
The task for Habas’s men became more difficult due to the absence of their marquee midfielder Luis Garcia who suffered a hamstring injury towards the end of the first half.
Jofre puts Atletico ahead
After a pretty even first half, the game became more intense in the second half. However, defender Wim Raymaekers made a costly mistake of clutching Fikru’s jersey and pulling him down inside the box. Jofre Mateu, a product of Barcelona’s youth system calmly converted the penalty with a classic left footer pushed to the left that put the hosts ahead 1-0 in the 49th minute.
Mulder fails to restore parity
As barren as the first half was, the second half was littered with goal scoring chances and incidents. Delhi’s Hans Mulder attempted his best to restore parity in the 53rd minute but his volley went over the bar.
Stunning equaliser by Pavel Elias
Jofre continued to press on and tried to pierce into the Delhi defence but was denied many a time by the tall and sturdy Delhi custodian.The Kolkata franchise were heading to their third straight win, when Pavel Elias stunned the 60, 000 roaring spectators with his fabulous strike that left the score 1-1.
The Czech midfielder’s 73rd minute volley from outside the box that curled into the top left hand corner was a thing of beauty to watch and it silenced the partisan crowd.
The home team kept on attacking but were clearly missing the services of Garcia and midfielder Borja Fernandez who was shown a red card in the previous match.
Del Piero gets into a scuffle
Apart from the goals, the second half was also dotted with a few unsavoury moments as Del Piero got involved into a scuffle after bringing down Denzil Franco. The hosts too had a forgettable moment as they were reduced to ten men for the second match in a row. Rakesh Masih who had come in for Luis Garcia was shown a second yellow card and was given marching orders for an unnecessary challenge.
Atletico still leads the Points Table
Kolkata still leads the points table with seven points after two wins and a draw. They will look to get back to their winning ways when they travel to Goa on Thursday. The fitness of Luis Garcia will be a concern as reports indicate that he will be out for a week.
The Delhi outfit, meanwhile, will look to improve on their performances as they are currently languishing in fifth place with two points from two draws. Their next match is at home versus Chennaiyin FC on Saturday.