Delhi Dynamos continued with their winless streak as they played out a goalless draw against Kerala Blasters in a high-intensity Indian Super League match on Sunday.
After their back-to-back defeats at the hands of FC Goa and Mumbai City FC, Delhi Dynamos were searching for a win to boost their confidence but yet again had to settle for a draw in the match which also saw their head coach Harm van Veldhoven being sent off.
The Dutch coach was given marching orders by Indian referee Pranjal Banerjee for kicking the ball at the sidelines as he expressed his frustration apparently after a free kick was denied in the 74th minute of the match watched by nearly 35,000 crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Delhi side’s birthday boy Alessandro Del Piero made the starting eleven but the Italian legend, who turns 40 today, continued his search for form as he could not make much of an impact in the match.
He was involved in a few goal-bound moves but ended up being booked in the 37th minute. He was substituted in the 72nd minute by Pavel Elias.
Both teams played attacking football though there were not many goal-scoring chances. Their defences held firm with the match turning out to be a battle of midfield supremacy.
With the draw, their fourth in the tournament so far, Delhi Dynamos remained on seventh spot in the eight-team league table with seven points from seven matches. They have won just one match and lost twice. They have not won for four matches on the trot.
Kerala Blasters are just above the Delhi side at sixth spot with eight points from seven matches. They have won twice, drawn twice and lost thrice.
The match got off to a lively start with both teams getting immediately into attack mode. Delhi settled into their passing game, while Kerala drove forward with pace.
The home side were nearly gifted a goal when the visitors gave away possession just outside their own box. Their keeper Kristof Van Hout and defender Shouvik Ghosh, however, saved the situation. Van Hout got a hand on Stephen Pearson’s cutback and Ghosh was there to clear the ball.
The lanky Dynamos custodian Van Hout rescued his team again in the 22nd minute, making a save at full stretch after Andrew Barisic’s cross popped up off defender Adil Khan, with Iain Hume’s follow-up header hitting the outside of the post.
Kerala were dominant at that stage and even had the ball in the net through Barisic, but it was ruled out for an offside in the build-up.
Delhi, however, weathered the storm and began to see more of the ball. They soon had a chance with Mads Junker firing a point-blank header directly at Kerala keeper David James.
The game became more end-to-end, but the half ended scoreless.
The second half started with the teams trading possession. Delhi came closest to scoring, with birthday boy Del Piero’s flicked header sending Robert Lalthamuana through on goal, but while his chip beat keeper James, it was well wide of the post.
Kerala coach Trevor Morgan made his intentions clear when he brought on striker Milagres Gonsalves on to join Barisic and Hume in a three-pronged attack. But there were still no clear chances for either side, although Delhi went close through Bruno Arias.
Kerala and Delhi continued to probe each other in search of an opening goal, and there were promising moments at either end.
The visitors nearly snatched the winner when substitute Pavel Elias had a free header from a corner, but his effort was wide. It was to be the last action of a closely-fought match.
Delhi play FC Goa at home on November 13 while Kerala’s next fixture is a home match against Mumbai City FC on November 12.
Kerala Blasters made three changes from their previous match starting line-up, with Nirmal Chettri, Iain Hume and Andrew Barisic coming in for CS Sabeeth, Colin Falvey and Raphael Romey.
Delhi Dynamos, on the other hand, made four changes by bringing in del Piero, Hans Mulder, Adil Khan and Robert Lalthlamuana for Gulstave dos Santos, Pavel Elias, Steven Dias and Souvik Chakraborthy.