Pune do themselves and ISL a huge favour
There have only been two ISL matches that have produced seven goals, and they are separated by one year and one day.
If FC Goa unleashed a disproportionate amount of misery on Mumbai City FC on November 17, 2015 with a 7-0 hammering with two hat tricks in one match, this match was a more gripping and engaging 4-3 win for FC Pune City against Delhi Dynamos on November 18, a year later.
In doing so, Pune have set the benchmark for how teams could, should and perhaps must approach the last quarter of the league stages.
To begin with, Antonio Habas started with his most positive formation yet. In past seasons with Atletico de Kolkata, Habas has usually believed in his midfielders to perform the biggest roles for him, with Borja Fernandez a shining example of the work rate that the 2014 champions tend to maintain in playing a game based on short passes, swift changes of flanks and goals coming from across the park.
In 2016, perhaps unsure of the resources at his disposal, Habas has often gone for five at the back. Perhaps it has been an acknowledgement of a lack of faith in his strikers, since the squad does appear to lack depth in that department. That has meant Pune have usually played the waiting game in matches, and though like Kolkata in the past two years, the former Valencia coach's team found seven different scorers in their first 10 games, they had only eight goals scored going into Friday's game against Delhi Dynamos.
Delhi themselves had scored 18, and were getting goals from across the field, but Pune needed points, and that may have prompted Habas to field a more attacking team. Four at the back meant the midfield could accommodate an extra man, and Arata Izumi and Eugeneson Lyngdoh made welcome starts. Momar Ndoye, best remembered for a sizzling winner against FC Goa on October 8, also started on the left wing and ran the young right-back Lalchhawnkima ragged with his industry.
The star turn however would come from Mexican striker Anibal, a man who was Pune's leading scorer going into the game in any case. Anibal and Habas go back to their days together at Valencia more than a decade ago, and it was the fight that he showed today that brought Pune back from the throes of having seen a penalty saved and a goal down.
In a short span, Anibal struck two goals, one a superb header off a set-piece that exposed the chinks in Delhi's defences which had only been exploited to this extent once by Mumbai City. Mohamed Sissoko joined in the fun, too, and with Delhi then mounting a fightback like they always do, Lenny Rodrigues showed his value with a run and a finish that had once made him a favourite of national team coach Wim Kovermans during his best years in Indian football.
From eight goals in their first 10 matches, that tally has swelled to 12, and suddenly Pune are a team which is not short on options in any part of the pitch.
This was Pune's last match at home in the regular season, one where they had just one win and two draws to show from the first six outings in Balewadi. In playing inarguably their most cavalier brand of football, they have now moved into semi-final contention and also thrown the spanner in what was looking like a Delhi juggernaut into the playoffs.
There's still some football to be played yet. And if more teams can channel their inner mongrel the way that both Pune and Delhi did, the entertainment quotient might just see a spike.