Delhi Dynamos played their first home game of the season against league leaders NorthEast United and managed to secure a draw in their Indian Super League (ISL) outing.
Kean Lewis opened the scoring for the Lions, but Emiliano Alfaro brought the Highlanders back into the game with his equalizer.
Former Chelsea player and the marquee for the Dynamos, Florent Malouda was left on the bench and brought on as a substitute in the second half. Coach Gianluca Zambrotta defended his decision to rest the Frenchman who played every game last season.
“(Florent) Malouda is a great player. Last year was last year and this is a new season. Not starting him is purely tactical because of the way we wanted to play, he has no injuries as such. He is a very important player, but he’s as important as any other player in the squad.”
“Malouda came on in the last part of the match, and he was slotted into a position. We feel he did his job well and did what he was asked. We have to keep in mind who our opponents are, and in my opinion we made the best decision and played players who are in good form. We are absolutely happy with his performance and the result of the match,” the Italian said further.
The game saw six bookings in total and a lot of them were deemed too harsh in light of the intensity of the match. The gaffer felt that the physicality and fouls were a result of the creativity of the players into tricking their opponents and was satisfied by the decisions made by the referee.
“Sometimes opponents play at a level that force a team into mistakes. We have no problem with the referee. Sometimes they played in a way that made us go into tackles a bit late and sometimes we did the same, but that’s what opponents try to do to each other,'' he stated.
Ghanaian forward Richard Gadze was replaced very late in the game with Badara Badji. The coach explained his decision to stick with Gadze till the closing stages before subbing him off.
“Gadze is a different player, he’s faster. That’s the way we wanted to play today against NorthEast (United). (Badara) Badji is very different, we wanted to neutralise certain threats and attack in a particular way. Both players are fantastic for us but our decision was purely tactical,'' the former Barcelona full-back elucidated.
The match was described by The Lions' captain Toni Doblas as evenly matched and supremely competetive.
The goalkeeper hailed the industrious shift put in by the team’s backline which included a goal-line clearance by Ruben Rocha, and also credited his opponents.
“The difference in this game was NorthEast (United), our opponents. They are the leaders, they are strong and quick and a very solid team overall. They have good local and foreign players,'' said the Spaniard.
''The performance by both teams was fantastic, this match was the best in this season of ISL. There was great physicality, pace and a lot of chances for both teams. I believe it was a treat for the fans in the stadium and those watching at home on TV,” he added.
The Dynamos’ stopper was asked how big the difference in match preparation was under new coach Gianluca Zambrotta to that of former boss Roberto Carlos.
“The difference is not so big. They both were great players with similar style. We try to keep ball, play with the ball. You can see on the pitch that we try to keep the ball and move forward.”
The 36-year-old also mentioned the importance of adjusting to the opponent's playing style and how the home team built up their attack differently.
“When you start the game, you always start with a system in mind. When you see how the opponent is playing, you need to adjust the style. The coach knows our capabilities and we can play in multiple ways depending on the opponent. In this game we decided to build from the back by playing short passes instead of taking long direct goal-kicks," he concluded.