Delhi Dynamos FC, the only Hero Indian Super League club representing the North of India, may have lost narrowly via penalties in the semifinals to bow out of the competition, but their players walked away with the top honours as the 2016 season of the Hero Indian Super League came to an end.
The Dynamos’ Brazilian superstar Marcelinho waltzed his way to the Golden Boot award and emerged as the top marksman across teams with 10 goals. Dazzling opponents and fans alike with his sublime skills and lethal finishing, Marcelinho also notched up 5 assists in the process. His great run in the tournament also included a superb hat-trick at home against FC Goa.
On the other hand, the Lions could not have asked for a better marquee player as former Chelsea icon Florent Malouda was named the ‘Hero of the League’. The Champions League winner, who was also the captain of the Delhi Dynamos squad, was a dominating presence throughout the tournament, marshaling his resources and controlling the games from the midfield with aplomb. Malouda, who was one of the three foreign players to be retained by the Delhi Dynamos for the current season, also helped himself to 3 goals with 5 assists, cutting defences with consummate ease and providing the creative spark for his team.
The entire Delhi Dynamos squad can be really proud of their display during the 2016 edition of the Hero ISL, and although they could not qualify for the finals, they did look the most potent attack all throughout the tournament. At the end of the league, they dominated almost all of the attacking statistics – scoring the maximum number of goals and having the maximum shots on target. The Lions breached the opposition goal 29 times, with the second best teams being the eventual champions Atlético de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC at 20 goals each. The Dynamos also raked up 98 shots on target during the tournament, with Atlético de Kolkata lying a distant second at 79 shots.
Individually as well, Delhi Dynamos were a dominant force. Not only did Marcelinho end up being the league-leader in terms of goals scored, he also had 26 shots on target which was the highest. The Dynamos have three men among the top-ten scorers – with Richard Gadze (5 goals) and Kean Lewis (4 goals) establishing a formidable troika up front with Marcelinho. At the back, Souvik Chakrabarti was rock solid for his team as he emerged as the only player in the ISL 2016 to play every minute of his side’s matches. Souvik made 76 tackles to go with 31 interceptions, proving his worth in gold for his team.
Delhi Dynamos Head Coach Gianluca Zambrotta was right in his assessment that his boys can hold their heads high despite not going the full distance this season. They displayed tremendous grit and determination during the competition, and almost pulled off a great heist against Kerala Blasters FC in the semifinals after playing with 10 men for more than 90 minutes and winning the game 2-1 during regulation time. The game then went to extra time and penalties as the two sides were locked 2-2 on aggregate. “I am very proud of my team, my staff and my players. We have played an amazing match today. It wasn’t easy to play with 10 people,” Zambrotta had rightly said after the match.
Summing up his campaign with Delhi Dynamos for the season, he had added, “I am totally satisfied when I analyse the performances during the season – we had the best score in terms of goals, and never lost at home. I am very proud of this. The first thing I told the players after we lost today’s match was ‘thank you’ because we’ve had a very good season and I am very proud of all the players.”
This was the second successive semifinal exit for Delhi Dynamos in the Indian Super League. Their fans can be really proud of the team’s display this season, but would be hoping that the Lions come back stronger next year and go all the way to complete their unfinished business.