Delhi: Many were left wondering what it might have been if Delhi Dynamos had started their campaign in the Indian Super League (ISL) the same way they are ending it.
The Dynamos continued to surprise everyone as they slayed Mumbai City FC 5-1 in a match that saw both teams being reduced to 10 men at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi, on Tuesday.
This was their second successive victory after the incredible 4-3 comeback against defending champions ATK and they have now remained unbeaten in their last five matches, winning three of them. Had Delhi started in a similar fashion, they would have certainly bewn challenging for a place in the playoffs. Bit as fate will have it, they are now placed eighth with 18 points from 17 matches and can at best finish in the same position.
Following their shock defeat, Mumbai are out of the race for semi-finals. They are seventh with 23 points from 17 matches and with just one match left to be played, they can reach a maximum of 26 points. Fourth-placed Jamshedpur FC already have 26 points, and since they play FC Goa (24 points) in their last league match, one of the two teams will have more points than Mumbai.
Their loss also meant Chennaiyin FC have now become the third team to qualify for the semi-finals with 29 points.
Delhi took the lead in the fifth minute through Nandhakumar Sekar and led 1-0 at the breather. In the second session, Everton Santos equalised for Mumbai City in the 49th minute but what followed next was unfathomable. Matias Mirabaje made it 2-1 in the 74th minute, then saw teammate Pratik Chowdhary get sent off for a double booking in the 77th minute.
Despite having a player sent off, Delhi increased their lead through Manuel Arana’s penalty in the 81st minute and also saw Mumbai midfielder Sahil Tavora being sent off for the tackle that led to the penalty. With both teams reduced to 10 men, Delhi found their touch again and hammered two late goals through substitutes Kalu Uche (81st minute) and Lallianzuala Chhangte (90th minute).
The home side are having an incredible run and they proved they have a quality bench strength too. Coach Miguel Angel Portugal made six changes to the team that defeated ATK yet they started strongly and moved ahead in the fifth minute through Nandhakumar Sekar who was beautifully set up inside the box by Seityasen Singh.
Mumbai capitalised on a poor collection from the Delhi goalkeeper as Santos got the equaliser in the second session. They were in a strong position to surge ahead as Balwant Singh and substitute Leo Costa went incredibly close but once Mirabaje made it 2-1 with a thunderous strike from outside the box, there was no stopping Delhi Dynamos.
Arana won and converted a penalty in the 80th minute and then Kalu Uche and Lallianzuala Chhangte came off the bench to score perfect team goals as Delhi celebrated their most satisfying victory of the campaign.