New Delhi: Hosts Delhi Dynamos and NorthEast United FC promised a lot but delivered little to produce a lively yet goalless draw Wednesday in an Indian Super League (ISL) match here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
With the 0-0 scoreline, NorthEast missed a chance to go second, overtaking Chennaiyin FC, and close the gap on leaders Atletico de Kolkata in the standings, settling for the third place with eight points from five matches while Delhi stayed at the fourth spot with six points from four matches.
It was Delhi's third draw in four matches.
Delhi Dynamos FC's Alessandro Del Piero takes the free kick against NorthEast United FC in the Hero Indian Super League match held at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi, on Wednesday. PIC/ISL/SPORTZPICS
Though both sides will settle for a point, particularly when it is still relatively early in the inaugural edition of the tournament, the visitors will definitely be ruing the missed opportunity to pick up three points away from home after a decent performance, particularly with their 'icon' Joan Capdevila missing from action with an injury.
They started on a brighter note. Enjoying a vociferous and numerically superior support despite playing an away game, their two mobile wingers meant menace from the very beginning.
Their efforts were supplemented by a steady supply from the central midfield, helping them to stretch the Delhi defence on several occasions.
But as the match progressed, Delhi got their stride and created more meaningful chances.
Their marquee man Alessandro del Piero, evidently short of full fitness even in his team's fourth game, was still the principal creator of chances.
He came close on several occasions, first with a strong left-footer that went narrowly wide and then with two weak right-footed attempts.
But both teams were missing sharpness in front of the goal, with their strikers failing to convert decent opportunities despite getting into favourable positions.
The visitors aided by the advantage of assembling a squad comprising mostly of young and agile players from the north east region of the country relied on pace and swiftness to expose their opponents, who banked mostly on the brilliance of a slow yet intelligent del Piero to unlock the NorthEast defence.
The Italian, fully aware that he does not have the legs anymore to outrun younger and fitter defenders, tried to outfox them with his trickery and mastery over the ball.
He succeeded in getting free-kicks in dangerous positions just outside the rival penalty box but couldn't quite muster that dipping swerving shot to put his team ahead.
The second session also started on a similar note with NorthEast seizing the initiative, their threats again arising from their flanks. But it was Delhi who came closer to scoring, hitting the post from close range.
But NorthEast enjoyed possessional supremacy and looked more likely to score.
Delhi coach Harm van Veldhoven was well aware of the difficulty his side was facing and replaced the tired del Piero with Brazilian Gustavo dos Santos in the 55th minute.
The move injected more pace in Delhi's offensive play but couldn't solve their defensive shakiness and they escaped a penalty claim on 65 minutes with referee Pratap Singh turning down a strong plea.
As the match entered its final quarter the NorthEast team couldn't sustain the momentum they enjoyed for the better part of the match with their strikers remaining ineffective.
Delhi, sensing a chance to claim a late winner, conjured up some shooting opportunities that tested NorthEast keeper Rehenesh Paramba but it wasn't enough to clinch a win.