Luck, along with tactical acumen of manager Gianluca Zambrotta, helped Delhi Dynamos FC claw their way back from 0-2 down and force a 3-3 draw against Mumbai City FC at the capital's Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium on Tuesday.
Delhi started poorly and their defence was all over the place in the first half. But Zambrotta's quick action in the second half coupled with poor refereeing turned the tide Delhi's way as they stole a point in an entertaining draw.
Zambrotta realised that he had made mistakes and made sure he corrected them in time.
“We didn't prepare for the match correctly. We made a lot of mistakes in the first half. But in the second half we kept getting better. We had preparations to play against Mumbai City FC but the first half was not good as there were some mistakes. The second half, we changed our game a little,” Zambrotta said at the post-match press conference.
“Fortunately, because of some mistakes from the Mumbai City FC team we could come back from 3-1 down. At the start, we had planned to use the space on the wings but it didn't work for us and we were soon trailing 2-0. So we had to change the gameplan and we moved to a 4-2-4 formation and fortunately we were able to draw the game," he added.
Ghanaian striker Richard Gadze, who was Delhi's most impressive player with a goal, an assist and who also earned a penalty for the team, too praised the coach's decision-making in the second half.
"Coach told us to forget the first half. He got us to reorganise (and) adjust. And we're glad. I think the coach made a good decision by bringing on Badara Badji as he is tall. I told him that he should go for the ball first and that I will go behind him and I think it really worked for us,” Gadze said at the post-match conference.
There were few eyebrows raised when Zambrotta made four changes to the line-up, because he generally plays his core team.
Soram Poirei came in goal while David Addy and Ibrahima Niasse were slotted in central defence. Frenchman Florent Malouda was positioned as an attacking midfielder.
The coach said the move was purely tactical considering the physical demands of the league.
"We played three days ago. No injuries. Purely tactical. We needed to adjust to the players' physical needs."
Marquee player Malouda was handed his second start of the season. He had a decent match and Zambrotta said the former Chelsea winger was happy with his positioning in the match and that he was a vital cog in the side.
“Malouda in the last match played only thirty minutes but he played very well and today also was a difficult match as he was part of the starting eleven and he is very happy with his position and what he is doing and how he is playing," Zambrotta said. “Initially we started with 4-3-3 and after that we changed it to 4-2-4 which was a bit of a risk and I am very happy with Malouda. He is a very important player to us,” he added.
Of late the Delhi defence has struggled. In the last match against NorthEast United, the fullbacks struggled and against Mumbai, at times, they were clueless, especially in the first half. Zambrotta conceded that defence was indeed a worry and they needed to recover as soon as possible.
"We have to get better at defending. We've made a lot of mistakes today and need to learn from them. We hope to do much, much better. And we will hopefully play in a way that we practise for. It's good this happened today because we have to learn from bad experiences in defence. We need to learn to defend as a unit," Zambrotta said.
What can't be denied also is that Delhi got lucky against Mumbai. There was a wrong offside call which resulted in a goal. A soft penalty decision given against them led to the equaliser and a shot rattled the woodwork in the dying minutes of the match.
When asked about luck favouring them in the match, both Gadze and Zambrotta chose to play safe. "For me it's a refereeing decision, I can't say anything about that," Gadze replied.
"I don't want to speak about the referee. Referees are human. Sometimes they can make mistakes. We should respect the job and effort they put in. Sometimes, the decisions can go either way. Not our place to question," Zambrotta added.