ISL 2017: Delhi Dynamos in a downward spiral while Highlanders showing signs of life

With NorthEast United FC condemning Delhi Dynamos to their second loss in succession, the headaches for Miguel Angel Portugal have intensified...

In the build-up to their first home game of the season, Delhi Dynamos manager Miguel Angel Portugal was extremely critical of his side’s defensive organization in their previous two matches.

After Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to the previously winless NorthEast United FC, the Spaniard might well be fuming given the ineptness displayed at the back by the home side.

While the first goal from Marcinho saw the midfielder bomb inside the box completely unmarked, the second goal was a comical piece of defending.

The two incidents were not the only moments of weakness for the Dynamos. There were numerous occasions throughout the 90 minutes that the defence was opened up with ease as NorthEast United’s attackers made the most of individual errors.

Delhi might well have won the battle when it came to possession with a whopping 65 percent. They even had more shots on goal than their opponents. Yet somehow, one could say the visitors were good value for their win.

What is also true is that Portugal’s men only really got going once they were 2-0 down within the opening 22 minutes. Their lacklustre start coupled with a wayward defence might as well have rung in the death knell for the Lions in the first-half itself.

The one positive for Delhi despite their loss was the display of Guyon Fernandez who was a constant threat on the left-flank with his direct running. The Curacoan cut inside to his right foot to deadly effect on numerous occasions though his finishing left a lot to be desired. Interestingly, he is a striker!

What will bother Portugal with regards to his attack on Saturday is the off-colour skipper Kalu Uche. Despite dominating on the ball, the home side struggled to get the Nigerian into the game as he cut a forlorn figure up top.

The absence of Uruguayan playmaker Matias Mirabaje due to a knock was clearly felt as Delhi’s attacks lacked a punch. Mirabaje has been at the heartbeat of the Dynamos’ attacking verve in the opening two matches. Also, the late introduction of Lallianzuala Chhangte was a baffling call unless the young winger was suffering from a knock.

The man-of-the-match from Delhi’s victory over FC Pune City added some much-needed impetus to the attack in the second-half and Delhi supporters must be wondering why the 20-year-old did not start the game.

For Joao Carlos Pires de Reus, the win was the perfect antidote to a side which had struggled in its two matches prior to Saturday.

Forward Danilo Lopes Cezario was electric in attack as he caused all sorts of headaches for the Delhi defence with his lightning-quick feet. He was justly rewarded with a goal after pouncing on a howler from Gomes to put the NorthEast outfit 2-0 up. However, what will delight the Portuguese manager the most will be the performance put in by left-winger Halicharan Narzary.

After not being picked to start in the previous match, Narzary showed Deus what he brings to the table with a masterful display on Saturday. The 23-year-old gave Dynamos’ right-back Pritam Kotal a torrid time as he went past his man on multiple occasions.

Narzary’s assist for Marcinho’s opener was delicious after he created havoc on the left-flank with a mazy run drawing numerous Delhi defenders out of position.

The midfield fulcrum of Adilson Giano and the returning Rowllin Borges worked a treat as they did their best to shield the back-four in the face of a second-half onslaught by the Dynamos. With Borges showing some good signs in his comeback from injury, Deus will feel more confident about his midfield in the remainder of the Indian Super League (ISL) season.

Sambinha and Jose Goncalves formed a solid pairing at the heart of the defence while TP Rehenesh put in an inspired performance between the sticks. Nirmal Chettri and Reagan Singh were equally effective on either full-back slots as the Highlanders weathered the Dynamos storm.

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It might not have been the most convincing of performances from Deus’ men on Saturday but they did just enough to hold on after punishing Delhi in the opening quarter of the match.

The visitors dogged display to eke out a win under tremendous pressure bodes well for the matches to come. After going winless in their opening two games, the Highlanders are showing signs of encouragement at the opportune time. It is up to Deus now to make the most of this new found resilience and build on it.

On the other hand, the Lions have become mightily quiet after coming out roaring against Pune in their opener. Portugal has the unenviable task of sprucing up a withering side which has lost its sheen fairly quickly after a bumper start. The Spaniard will be hoping to get Mirabaje back as soon as possible to stem the decline which has set in for the capital-based outfit.