Champs held to draw
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Defending champions Delhi United FC dominated the entire length of their league game against last year's semi-finalists' Tarun Sangha, but could not find the back of the net in a match that had many close misses but no goals, on a damp, water-logged pitch. The game itself had kicked-off an hour late after heavy rain Monday night and the showers on Tuesday morning that had left the Akshardham sports complex ground water-logged.
The two teams, having already qualified for the quarter-final stage of the Delhi Soccer Association Senior Division League Championship 2012-13, only took one point each from the game but some players seemed content to have completed the game without getting injured on an extremely slippery ground that had water puddles scattered around.
"The playing conditions are not so good, but we can play as long as the ball doesn't start floating in those puddles," said Nikhil, a right-flank player who was on the bench for Tarun Sangha. Brave words but as soon as the game kicked-off, players found it hard to cope. By the end of the game, both team's players were caked in mud. The effect was especially dramatic for Sangha who had started the game in an immaculate white kit.
Delhi United threatened to score since the start of play but their first real chance came in the 15th minute when Luke's shot from outside the box went over the Sangha keeper's reach and rattled against the crossbar before flying out of play. They came close to scoring again when ex-Mohun Bagan player Rishi Kapoor's pass found an unmarked Luke on the right flank. Luke's shot from the position missed the goal only by a whisker.
While the strikers were repeatedly thwarted by the slippery surface, the defenders made the most of the mitigated friction. With no fear of injury they made regular sliding blocks. A mistimed slide in the 66th minute, however, led to the game's only yellow card for Delhi United's jersey number 7, Ajit. Thereon, Delhi United continued to puncture Sangha's defense but failed to nudge the ball past the goal-line. "Conditions like these test the abilities and skills of a player very well. It's tough when the speed of the ball keeps changing when on the ground," Delhi United player, Sunder, said.