Are you wondering why FC Pune City has been so poor since the Indian Super League started? After all, they’ve never stood higher than the sixth position in the league. Well, I have an assumption that I will share in this post with you.
You already know that we’re talking about Pune City because of last night’s game. The score may have ended 2-3 but it flatters FC Pune City. It is only by virtue of three stubborn foreigners that they got two goals.
How FC Pune City played
There is a systemic problem with FC Pune City and this is something I will talk about in the post that will immediately follow this one. That will be the root cause. Since this is a review of the game, I will only talk about how the Stallions played. I will only talk about the symptoms of the systemic problem, so to speak.
The game started very poorly for FC Pune City. They lost Jewel Raja even before the kick-off. I’ve been a devoted fan of football for two decades now and I‘ve never seen the like. How do you have an injured player on the field even before the game even begins? Aren’t you supposed to replace said player before the game? Aren’t you supposed to know that the player is not fit? Aren’t you supposed to be extra careful about only starting fit players?
The commentators suggested that it was the match officials who didn’t have the setup to make a quick change. I’m inclined to believe that but I will place the blame on the Pune City management team too. I don’t mean Popovich, by the way. He’s not responsible for the entire management team. The Board of the club are supposed to place a logistics expert at the club to see to these eventualities and head them off before they occur. Prime example: the situation with Jewel Raja.
Not starting Keane Lewis was another mistake from Pune City. I would rather have had him in the line-up over Raja in the first place. Lewis would have been able to keep up with Lallianzuala Chhangte as well when it comes to pace. As far as I remember, Lewis is pacier than Raja.
On the pitch, Pune City, believe it or not, played okay. They were the more attacking of the two teams but they lacked the requisite cutting edge. Time and again, they reached the final third to only spurn the opportunity with a nothing final ball. The problem is that with the kind of attackers they have, they should’ve blown away the opposition. They didn’t. There are three reasons why they didn’t.
- Poor final ball: I’ve already mentioned this but I’ll expound. Pune City’s final ball was always that yard off the pace or off target. Their runners in the final third kept taking similar positions.
- Poor linkup play: Which runners am I talking about? Why, Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelinho, of course. Did you notice how both those players were almost always in the same place at the same time? Go see the replay of Alfaro’s goal and find Marcelinho in the screen.
- Passing speed: The entire Pune City team was lazy and slow. Either they were still in their beds or they weren’t passionate about their team enough. I think it’s the latter and I also think that that is the reason why they don’t perform in the league.
How Delhi Dynamos Played
Delhi Dynamos clearly started the game with one goal and it wasn’t goals. It was to stifle the Pune City attack. Fortunately for them, Pune City did half their work by playing slow possession game. In basketball, when a team builds up momentum, what do their opponents do? They slow the game down. What does Mourinho do in difficult grounds? He slows things down.
Pune were slow in the first place but Delhi slowed down the game even more. They did it by playing lots of short, safe passes. There was a lot of sideways and backward passing from Delhi Dynamos. It was all wonderfully technical. When they didn’t have the ball, they would sit back to reduce Pune City’s chances. They strangled Pune City’s wonted attack force. You could even see Marcelinho getting pissed in the first half. It was all over his face.
Initially, I thought Delhi Dynamos were going for a Smash and Grab but they proved me wrong. They were just trying to lull Pune City. They were waiting for Delhi to make mistakes and they did. Throughout the first half, though, Chhangte looked an interesting player. I’ll explain in the next section.
Delhi Goals and a Bubbly Pint of Beer
Delhi’s goals came via Chhangte tiny feet. He was a pint sized little gremlin that bubbled like a five litre champagne when given the ball. He was immediately noticed – by me and the commentators both. If I can notice him from my den, bigger experts like the commentators will definitely notice him from the media box at the stadium.
The first goal came from a move that Delhi had tried at least three times before in the first half. They freed Chhangte down the left flank for a whipped in cross. He had a marker on him all those times who managed to block the cross each of those times. If you can watch the match again, keep an eye on how his first three blocked crosses were similar to the successful one in the second half.
Chhangte’s cross from the left flank to the near post is how Delhi took the lead. Paulinho probably knew the cross would come there so he nipped in front of the defender and glanced the header into the net. Incidentally, if Paulinho hadn’t been there, Uche was right behind him. That was a training ground move, if I ever saw one. Very strategic, very tactical from Portugal. I love it when a plan comes together, don’t you?
The second goal was also something that Delhi were going for – a mistake from Pune City. The lackadaisical Gurtej Singh failed to clear or pass the ball and was closed down by the ever-present Paulinho. The deflected ball rolled into open space and guess who was the quickest to it. Chhangte. Chhangte took the ball, outpaced everyone, drew suckered the keeper in with a heavy touch and dinked it over him. Aamir Khan must’ve screamed, “Chhangte India!” I heard it.
The third goal was pure class. Delhi couldn’t have defended it even if they were in the mood to. Heck, Peter Schmeichel would’ve failed to get it even if he was standing next to Gianluigi Buffon. All bow to one Matias Mirabaje. He looks like a very interesting player.
Pune City Goals Come from Abroad
How do you know that your team is crap? You know when all your goals come from individual skills of foreign imports. Both Pune City goals came from abroad. The first was Alfaro doing what he does best and the second was Marcelinho doing what he does best to lay one on a plate for Marcos Tebar. No local was involved in those build-ups.
Emiliano Alfaro received the ball with his back to the goal and two defenders sitting on him like the ghost from the Thai horror movie Shutter. He still turned them, adopted one more defender (because two weren’t enough of a challenge) and shot at the goal through the legs of the third defender. It was a moment of magic, a wonderful solo goal from a wonderful player.
The second goal was created by Marcelinho who cut into the box from the right flank with the ball. He took his man to the touchline, beat him on the dribble, and put in a peach of low cross that beat everyone but Marcos Tebar. It was a tap in for Tebar.
It was all pointless from Pune City because it was too little too late. This leaves me asking a simple question. Why was there no urgency from the beginning of the game?