New Delhi: Indian striker Robin Singh's first-half goal was enough to power Delhi Dynamos to a 1-0 win over Goa in the first leg of their first semifinal as Roberto Carlos' men now hold the advantage in the battle for a place in the final of the Indian Super League season 2.
Robin scored from a close range after FC Goa's defence failed to clear their lines - giving Dynamos a slender but fully deserved advantage to take into the second leg of the semifinal at the Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday.
Both sides made a host of changes coming into the first leg of semifinals at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Sanjiban, Anwar, Greene, Souvik, Gadze and Vinicius made way for Doblas, Chicao, Anas, Dos Santos, Mama and Sehnaj in the Delhi line up. Meanwhile, Andrade, Roy, Bikramjit, Denson, Mandar and Dudu were replaced by Kattimani, Raju, Narayan, Arnolin, Moura and Sabeeth for FC Goa.
While Delhi will be happy to travel to Goa in the ascendancy and having prevented Zico's side from scoring a crucial away goal, they will regret that they failed to capitalise on the majority of chances they created in an entertaining clash.
FC Goa were penned in for long periods as the Dynamos displayed high tempo that suits them best, and it was only a mixture of the excellence of goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani and good fortune that kept the deficit within their range.
Delhi had the first attempt on the goal in the fifth minute thanks to a brilliant run from Dos Satos on the counter. Goa's poor clearance fell to Malouda and his shot went inches over the goal post. Minutes later, the home team had another chance of opening the scoring but Shylo's shot from the left hit the side-netting.
Goa had their first decent chance of the match in the 12th minute with Joffre Gonzalez found Sabeeth from the left but his header went over the bar. Few minutes later, play had to be stopped for a couple of minutes as John Arne Riise went down theatrically much to the frustration of Goa players and management.
Delhi kept on pressing for the opening goal - first Dos Santos' shot went straight to the keeper and seconds later Sehnaj Singh attempted a shot from distance following a good move by Delhi but his shot went wide.
The home team were the better side without any doubt in the first half as they were passing the ball extremely well and looked sharp on counters but the chances just didn't covert into goals. Delhi's player-manager Roberto Carlos was getting agitated as his side was not taking their chances.
Soon the Dynamos wasted chances from the corners. Malouda went past Jofre and Narayan from the right wing but his cross was cleared for a corner which resulted in another corner but Goa defence cleared the ball away from the danger.
The away team were then forced to make a substitution in the 35th minute as right-back Raju Gaekwad went down injured and was replaced by last match star man Romeo Fernandes. He scored a brace against Delhi in the last league encounter.
Then came the moment every Delhi supporter was looking for when their star striker Robin put them ahead in the 42nd minute. Dos Santos did extremely well to shrug off the challenge by Narayan Das and played it back for Chicao whose cross into the box found Robin, who made no mistake with his header. Delhi went into the half-time as deserving leaders.
The second half started with FC Goa getting an early corner and Sabeeth had a brilliant opportunity to level things but his header was off the target. In an end to end stuff - Delhi then had a glorious opportunity to double the lead thanks to an amazing run from Dos Santos who laid it off for Adil Nabi but the striker's shot was weak and off target.
On the brink of an hour mark, Delhi had another glorious chance after Dos Santos had played the through ball for Nabi who found Mama on the left but his shot was miles off the target and Carlos looked unimpressed with the effort.
As the second-half went by it was Delhi who kept on knocking at Goa's door but some wayward shooting kept on saving the away team. In the 72nd minute Malouda fired a shot wide from six yard out.
In the 85th minute Delhi had another golden chance to seal the match but this time goalkeeper Kattimani produced an outstanding save to deny Lucio and Delhi. With just a goal in it - Goa have every chance to believe that they can comeback at their home ground and seal the place in the final.