Last time out…
Delhi’s last-gasp equaliser away at Chennaiyin gave them a much-needed point and actually means they’re unbeaten for the whole of this year! Yes, it might only be one game, but you’ve got take what you can when you’re Delhi Dynamos at present. All jokes aside, it was very much a deserved point, regardless of the fact it was a late, late equaliser; Delhi had more of the ball which is starting to become a normality now but it seemed like it was going to be a familiar tale of poor finishing which let them down until Guyon Fernandez popped up at the death and finished from close range to give Delhi their first point since the opening day of the season. The first goal of the game also went to Delhi, this time completely against the run of play as Ngaihte headed home after the Chennaiyin defence for some reason thought it was best to ignore him and that goal rocked Chennaiyin as it took them a bit of time to get back up and running. When they did, it will come as no surprise to anyone that it was Jeje who drew them level, similar to Delhi’s first, some slack defensive play made it easy for Jeje to head home from Mihelic’s cross. The ascendancy was with Chennaiyin as the second half kicked off and it took just over five minutes for Jeje to get his second of the evening as he turned and finished like a player who is determined to catch Coro and Miku in the goalscoring charts; after chances squandered at both ends, it was Fernandez’ first goal for Delhi which levelled things up.
David James’ first game as just a manager, as opposed to player-manager actually went surprisingly well when you consider some of the stuff that Meulensteen had been serving up. James was lucky enough to have Berbatov back at his disposal, something that Meulensteen didn’t have since he limped off in the opening minutes of the game against Goa on the 9th of December, however, Dimitar is still yet to get off the mark for Kerala and it might be a while before he does if James persists in playing him in midfield. To be fair, you can understand why you would play him there because his reading of the game is absolutely unbelievable and if he can help the younger players around him improve then it’s a win, win, however, you just have to feel that with their lack of goals so far, he’d put him up top. Kerala unsurprisingly when 1-0 down against Pune City in a first half where Pune absolutely pulverised them, the only shock is that they only scored once as Chowdhury in the Kerala goal, showed why he is in between the sticks as opposed to Rachubka. The tricky Marcelinho got Pune’s goal and as we just touched on, he’ll be disappointed they didn’t get more as after the break, it all changed. Was Berbatov coming off at halftime the thing that made the biggest difference? Maybe. Did James give them a bollocking at halftime? You bet he did. The possession stats in the second were a mirror image to that of the first half, but Kerala cut Pune off completely and they would feel hard done by that they only scored once in a second half that belonged to them, Sifneos getting the goal.
Miguel Portugal, as seems to be the norm in ISL conferences at the moment, was quick to heap praise on the opposition:
“[They are] Very strong in defence and have a very good midfield with experienced [players] like Wes Brown. They are a good, compact team. It is difficult to beat Kerala. I think it is a good match for us.”
After their dismal run, Miguel was pleased with the last gasp draw at Chennaiyin;
“The point [from last game] is good for the team and the confidence,”
He then touched on how highly he thinks of new Kerala manager, David James:
“He was a good goalkeeper for England. I think he always had a good talent for coaching,”
Not too sure how you know that Miguel, but never mind. He finished by going back to how happy he was after the Chennaiyin game and rightly so:
“I am very happy. After the six losses, it is normal. It [celebration] is not [for] the one point. It is for playing well, for playing good football.”
The aforementioned David James is in the other dugout in what will be his first away game in charge. He made it perfectly clear what he is aiming for:
“I think the squad has quality. It is tremendous to work with these group of players, get up the table and hopefully qualify for playoffs,”
He then expressed his feelings towards the task ahead:
“I have to got to understand my players, their strengths and weaknesses. The players are confident, which is a good thing for a coach and [I am] looking forward to the challenge,”
James was also happy with the fact he has a fit squad to pick from;
“That is a wonderful thing for me who has joined as a head coach so recently that I am not looking at a dressing room decimated with injuries,”
He ended the conference by saying he is confident in the ability of his players and he won’t be looking to make any additions:
“I am not interested in bringing in anyone else because I have my belief on my players and a new manager is brought in to make his team better with what he has got rather than bringing in new players,”
The game itself…
We haven’t quite hit the ‘must-win’ stage of the season yet, but it’s not far away for either of these sides, especially Delhi if they want to make any sort of charge for the playoffs and only four points separate the teams going into the game so if the home side were to come away with the spoils, it would certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. The main issue for both of these teams is scoring goals as they’ve only mustered seven goals apiece so far in the eight games that they’ve played and it also doesn’t bode well that from Delhi’s home games and Kerala’s away games so far this season, neither team has picked up three points. Is it possible for both teams to lose?
If you are to look at the game on paper, Kerala win this every day of the week, but as Andy Gray once said on during a FIFA commentary: “Football isn’t won on paper, it’s won on grass” or something to that tune. It should be an exciting game because both teams will go for the win, but considering both teams woeful goalscoring record thus far this season, we could well be facing a game with a ridiculous amount of shots and no goals. Maybe even a record breaker. I’ve had a look and I can’t find what the record is, but I reckon if we get 20+ without a goal, then that is some good going.
Ones to watch…
Paulinho Diaz – Whilst Delhi’s performances have not been anywhere near the levels they should have been, one player who does tend to be rather consistent is Paulinho as he breaks the opposition’s play up and distributes the ball to those who are deemed more creative around him. If he can dominate the midfield then Delhi may well have a chance, but without putting too much pressure on the Brazilian, its all down to him.
Jackinchand Singh – Not only has he got one of the best names in professional football, he’s actually quite good which is always a bonus! The rapid winger is one of those players that if you take your eye off him for even the shortest amount of time, he’ll punish you and with Sifneos getting a goal last time out, it could become somewhat of a wicked combination moving forward. That’s without even mention Iain Hume who is yet to find his shooting boots this season; if he gets going as well, then maybe Kerala can make the playoffs.
One more thing…
All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing under 1.5 goals @ 2/1.