FC Pune City started their game against Mumbai City FC without a single forward in their playing eleven. Turkish midfielder Tuncay Sanli played the role of the number nine, scoring two goals to help his side register a 3-1 win in their opening game on Monday.
The match was to be a fight between veteran ‘bad boys’ Nicolas Anelka and Adrian Mutu. While the duo only made an appearance as substitutes, it was the battle of the managers that made for more intriguing viewing.
Anelka, who was managing in his first match in India, was outdone by his opposite number from FC Pune City — David Platt.
Anelka and Platt have played each other at Arsenal in the late 90s. Anelka at the time had announced himself by becoming the club’s top-scorer in the 1998-99 season. Platt at the time was at the fag-end of his playing career. Anelka would go on to play for big clubs across Europe. Platt would have an extensive run in a coaching role in a number of clubs in England.
On Monday, it was the coaching stint of Platt that seemed to have held more weight than Anelka’s playing career as Pune edged Mumbai tactically on the pitch.
“I never had a chance to coach Anelka, but I have played alongside him,” Platt had said ahead of their clash. “He is new to coaching, but it will be interesting to see how he handles it,” Platt had said.
Their body language on the pitch, too, was contrasting. While the Frenchman remained seated and observed the game from the dugout, Platt was constantly rushing to the touchline passing on instructions.
On Monday, the Englishman began the game with a peculiar trick, playing without an out-and-out striker. The ploy, though, worked wonders for the side, as they romped to a comfortable win. “We had trained with that tactic, early on in the pre-season,” Platt said after the match.
The trick worked as Sanli, a traditional midfielder brought his A-game upfront. He was assisted well by Indian youngster Israil Gurung, who had two assists and also scored the team’s third goal.
Anelka, who was down with flu in the past week did not start the game, but came on in the 75th minute, but by then the two-goal deficit was too much to cover.
Gurung would later explain that both his assists were executed through specific instructions by Platt.
A nicely passed ball to the right wing met Gurung, who neatly scooped it to Sanli who was waiting at the far post to nod it in. He would replicate the effort in the second half, crossing the ball to a waiting Sanli.
“I would still not say I am happy with the result, there were a few areas where we faltered. We have quite a few things to learn from this game,” said Platt.