New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) A disciplined and organised Delhi Dynamos rode on a Robin Singh’s header in the first half to win 1-0 against FC Goa in the first leg of the Indian Super League’s (ISL) first semi-final here on Friday.
Robin headed Dynamos ahead on 42th minute and the team preserved the lead for the rest of the contest at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and will march into the second leg at Goa on December 15 with the slim advantage. It was Dynamo’s first win against Goa in five meetings across the two editions of the tournament. Goa have been the beaten semi-finalists last year too.
Goa had beaten Dynamos on both legs in the group phase this season. But the hosts displayed no psychological inferiority and began the proceedings on a strong foot. They received the first sight of goal when Brazilian defender Anderson Cardoso blazed over a left-footer from the top of the box after a swift interchange of passes in the fourth minute.
Goa too had their share of chances with an unmarked C.S. Sabeeth heading wide from the six-yard box after being set up by Spanish midfielder Joffre Gonzalez. Dynamos though had the greater offensive impetus. Their midfield, spearheaded by the consistent Frenchman Florent Malouda, enjoyed ball possession and tried to spread their attack through the two wingers — Brazilian Gustavo Dos Santos on the right and Shylo Malswmtulunga on the left. Goa were forced on the backfoot, denied to hit their stride and play with their usual attacking fluency. The opening exchanges were swift but as both the sides settled into a tempo, pace of the action dropped.
However, Dos Santos missed a good opportunity on 41 minutes when he sidestepped his effort wide from close range after being creditably set up by Cardoso. But they didn’t have to rue it at half-time as Robin headed them deservedly in front. The burly forward rose above his marker and timed his header perfectly to Cardoso’s accurate centre for the ball to sneak in at the far post. The timing of the goal was a cruel blow for Goa but they tried to take it in their stride.
Their response was quick but Sabeeth, again, blew the opportunity. He again undid Joffre’s decent delivery by heading wide at the far post four minutes after the resumption of play. Dynamos were also guilty of squandering at the other end when, two minutes later, British striker Adil Nabi needlessly delayed to shoot after being relayed by a superb Dos Santos run. Goa were compelled to push forward searching the equaliser, leaving large untenanted spaces behind. Dynamos were looking to utilise those gaps by sitting tight at the back and utilsing their pacy midfielders.
The ploy was made transparent by their coach Roberto Carlos when he withdrew Nabi for Dutch medio Han Mulder. They spurned the first opportunity they got in the 73rd. Malouda began one of his typical forward runs and creditably got on the end of a Malswamtulunga pass only to blast it wide from close range. It was the insurance goal that Dynamos keenly wanted as it would have been the perfect scenario for Malouda to score his first ISL goal. As the match entered the closing stages, Goa picked up pace.
But for the team which has netted the highest in the group stage (29), their finishing was abysmally poor. Brazilian midfielder Leo Moura, their most influential player, also joined the misfiring list when he squandered at the fag end of regulation time, blowing his side footed shot wide from close quarters. Four minutes of injury time were added after Moura’s miss, a time that seemed eternity for the anxious Dynamos camp.