Kolkata: Inspired by the presence of Alessandro Del Piero, Delhi Dynamos foiled Atletico de Kolkata’s bid to pick up its third successive win by forcing the latter to a 1-1 draw in the Indian Super League here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.
An unproductive first session was followed by an action-packed second which saw two goals and a red card towards the fag-end of the match.
Spanish midfielder Joffre Mateu put the host ahead through a 47th minute penalty before Pavel Elias, the Czech Republic defender, pulled level with a stunning long-ranger in the final quarter of the match.
Playing without suspended Spanish midfielder Borja Fernandez, Atletico reorganised its midfield by bringing in compatriot Joffre Gonzalez in the centre of the park. Czech Republic winger Jakub Podany started for the host, which flourished with a fluid passing game and enjoyed more than 70 percent possession in the opening half.
Delhi looked at its marquee player Del Piero for deliverance, putting him on the job right from the start.
The former Juventus star made a sharp break into the Atletico box in the seventh minute and appeared to have been tripped by Spanish defender Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey.
But Indian referee Santosh Kumar had other ideas and hauled up Del Piero with a yellow card for diving instead.
The host made the first notable break in the 19th minute through Ethiopian striker Fikru Lemessa, who foxed the Dynamos defence with a sudden burst of pace, but was unable to beat the six foot eight inch Kristof Van Hout in the Dynamos goal.
Joffre Mateu had another opportunity in the 28th minute, but could not locate the target.
The host brightened up proceedings by finding the target two minutes into the second half as Belgian defender Wim Raymaekers committed the cardinal error of tugging Lemessa by his shirt inside the box.
Joffre Mateu, who had released Lemessa with the opportunity, scored from the spot to a huge cheer from the 60,000-strong holiday crowd.
The host’s attack lost bite in the second half after its marquee player Luis Garcia walked off towards the end of the first half with a hamstring trouble. He could be out for a week.
Dynamos sought the equaliser in right earnest as Del Piero fed some good assists and found his efforts come good in the 73rd minute when Elias moved up from his defensive position to drive home a powerful long-ranger.
Substitute Rakesh Masih added to Atletico’s woes as he picked up a red card in the 88th minute following a needless foul on Del Piero.
Atletico de Kolkata 1 (Joffre Mateu 47-pen) drew with Delhi Dynamos FC 1 (Pavel Elias 73).