NorthEast United rallied to play out a thrilling 1-1 draw with Delhi Dynamos, playing their first home match of the season, to remain on top of the table in the Indian Super League football today.
Kean Lewis put Delhi ahead in the 38th minute but Uruguayan striker Emiliano Alfaro cancelled it out in the 51st minute as more than 27,000 crowd witnessed a high-voltage and quality encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
NorthEast remained on top with 10 points from five matches — three wins, a draw and a loss — while Delhi jumped to third spot with five points from three games. Delhi remained unbeaten with a win and two draws so far.
Both sides started the match slowly, trying to build the tempo and looking to break down the opposition citadel. NorthEast looked likely the side to get the openings initially with better distribution of the ball. The trio of Alfaro, Nicolas Velez and Katsumi Yusa looked dangerous at times while nippy Holicharan Nazary made some fine runs at the right flank.
But it was Delhi who got the first chance to take the lead, only to be wasted. Just after the away team supporters ‘booed’ the referee for showing yellow card on Yusa for ‘diving’ inside the area, NorthEast goalkeeper Subrata Paul could not collect properly a harmless looking shot from Milan Singh but Kean Lewis also shot straight to the keeper off the rebound.
Yusa then had his low shot from an angle beat the goalkeeper but saw it go wide in the 25th minute.
But next minute, Alfaro failed to punish Delhi from a defensive blunder committed by Ruben Gonzalez Rocha. Velez intercepted a horrible pass by Rocha to his goalkeeper Antonio Doblas. Instead of taking the shot himself, Velez passed the ball to Alfaro, but the Uruguayan striker shot wide in front of an empty net.
Delhi took the lead off a set piece in the 38th minute. Marcelo’s corner saw Paul come off his line and completely miss the flight of the ball. The ball fell for Lewis at the far post, who slammed it into the far corner of the net with his second touch.
The intensity of the match did not drop in the second half with end-to-end attacking from both sides and it was difficult to differentiate between the two sides.
But Delhi conceded the equaliser in the 51st minute with ex-Real Madrid defender Rocha committing a blunder for the second time in the match.
Nicolas Velez and Ruben were chasing the ball near the touchline and the Spanish defender gave away the ball. Velez found an unmarked Alfaro whose first shot was blocked by Chinglensana. On the rebound, his shot went into goal between the legs of the defender.
Former France and Chelsea player Florent Malouda was brought in by Delhi head coach Gianluca Zambrotta in the 66th minute and the home side went all-out for the winner in the frantic last few minutes. Marcelo had a crack at the goal in the 80th minute while Gadze had another two minutes later, but Northeast keeper Paul was up to the task.