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FC Pune City managed to salvage a point after earning 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 to grab all three points after a wonderful long-range strike from Rana Gharami (44th minute) but only for second-half substitute Diego Carlos, who spoiled the hosts' party after he equalised with two minutes left on the clock.
Coach Josep Gombau chose the Delhi Dynamos to lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with talismanic forward Andrija Kaluderovic leading the attack, while former Pune City midfielder Marcos Tebar was fielded in midfield alongside Bikramjit Singh while Nandhakumar and Lallianzuala Chhangte provided the width.
Whereas, FC Pune City, playing an attacking 4-3-3 formation, started brightly, with Ashique Kuruniyan exploiting the space down the flanks. An early cross from the young winger had found Alfaro in the box, but he failed to convert his chance.
Post that effort, the game looked like a cagey affair with both teams engaged in a midfield battle. But after quarter of an hour, Delhi started to pick the face and went close to scoring through chances created by Lallianzuala Chhangte and Rene Mihelic.
Delhi's persistent attacks finally paid dividends with just a minute left for he half-time whistle, when Delhi Dynamos got the deserved lead through a outrageous strike from Rana Gharami. The defender picked the ball from 40 yards and launched a pile driver that flew into the top corner, much to everyone's surprise. In the process, Rana Gharami also becomes the first Indian scorer in the Hero ISL 2018-19 season.
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 Delhi outfit continued to exploit the wings and should have doubled their lead in the 67th minute, after 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.
The FC Pune City coach Miguel Angel Portugal decided to bring on Diego Carlos in his first gamble of the night as he searched for an equaliser, while Dyamos' coach Gombau sent on Romeo Fernandes for Nandhakumar in an attacking move.
Pune City boss' move paid off brilliantly after the Brazilian winger galloped down the right wing and almost found Kaluderovic inside the box, but for an alert Mills. The Stallions looked more confident after that passage of play and 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.
While Pune committed bodies in search of the all important goal, Delhi threatened on the counter with two good chances to score a second. First, Ganni Zuiverloon failed to direct a volley at the backpost from Das' freekick on target. Then a smart inter-play between Kaluderovic and Chhangte set the latter through on goal but he shot straight at Vishal Kaith.
With two minutes left to play, 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, following the eqaliser, Delhi pressed hard to regain their lead, but Portugal's men held on t