Miguel Angel Portugal's Pune City managed to earn a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the death against home side Delhi Dynamos in their Hero Indian Super League opener here on Wednesday.
Delhi seemed set for all three points after a wonderful long-range strike from Rana Gharami (44th minute) but for second-half substitute Diego Carlos who equalised with two minutes left on the clock.
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Rana Gharami became the first Indian footballer to score a goal in the ISL 2018-19 season.
Coach Josep Gombau had Delhi Dynamos line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Andrija Kaluderovic leading the lines. Former Pune City midfielder Marcos Tebar started in midfield with Bikramjit Singh while Nandhakumar and Lallianzuala Chhangte provided the width.
Pune City, playing a 4-3-3 formation, started brightly, with Ashique Kuruniyan finding a lot of space down the left flank. An early cross from the youngster almost found Emiliano Alfaro inside the box.
Just after a quarter of an hour, Delhi started to assert themselves and fashioned several key chances. With a minute to go for the half-time whistle, Delhi Dynamos got a deserved lead through an outrageous strike from Rana Gharami. The defender got on the ball from about 40 yards out and hit a thunderous strike that flew into the top corner, much to everyone's wonder.
The second half got off to a slow start as both teams failed to create chances of note. Emiliano Alfaro cut a lone figure up front for Pune City while Delhi Dynamos pressed well but could not trouble the Stallions' defence.
The Dynamos continued to exploit the wings and should have doubled their lead in the 67th minute. Nandhakumar went on a brilliant run down the right wings and squared the ball for Kaluderovic who met it with a weak left-foot that saw the effort trickle well wide.
Portugal threw on Diego Carlos as he searched for an equaliser while Gombau sent on Romeo Fernandes for Nandhakumar. It was the latter who would fashion a chance as he galloped down the right wing and almost found Kaluderovic inside the box, but for an alert Mills.
The Stallions did get a chance though as a hopeful cross from the left fell to Jonathan Vila on the edge of the area. The Spaniard's fierce volley drew a fantastic reaction save from Francisco Dorronsoro.
With Pune turning desperate for a goal, Delhi had two good chances to score a second. First, Ganni Zuiverloon failed to direct a volley at the back post from Das' freekick on target. Then a smart interplay between Kaluderovic and Chhangte set the latter through on goal but he shot straight at Vishal Kaith.
With two minutes left in the tie, Pune City equalised after brilliant link-up play between Alfaro and Carlos. The Brazilian played in Alfaro inside the box. The Uruguayan passed it back on to Carlos' path who shifted on to his left and sent an arrowing finish to the far corner.
Though Delhi pressed hard to regain their lead, Portugal's men held on to clinch a point from a tightly-contested clash.