Van Veldhoven reveals change in approach led to win

Head coach Van Veldhoven flanked by Kristof Van Hout (L) and Francis Fernandes (R) after the team’s 2-1 win over NorthEast.
Delhi Dynamos head coach Harm Van Veldhoven flanked by Kristof Van Hout (L) and Francis Fernandes.

Delhi Dynamos head coach Harm van Veldhoven adjusted his strategy for the team’s game against NorthEast United, in order to arrest Delhi’s slide to the bottom of the table after two straight losses. That decision paid off handsomely as his team ran out 2-1 winners on the night.

The Dutch gaffer sprung a surprise by not naming a single out-and-out striker, opting instead for an attacking trio of Gustavo dos Santos, Francis Fernandes, and Shylo Malswamtluanga. The tactical changes were the focus of the post-match press conference, and Van Veldhoven explained that the idea was to focus on defending NorthEast’s energetic attacks, and attack on the counter.

“I knew that we had possibilities at the back defending,” Van Veldhoven said. “I saw possibilities (to counter). I know that NorthEast like to drive at the defence.”

The attending media nonetheless asked about marquee player Alessandro Del Piero’s absence, but the coach reasoned that the style of play would not have suited the Italian. “Today was not the game for him, because then we would have had to play very high up the pitch,” Van Veldhoven told reporters. “Today, it was more on the counter and that’s not really the game for Alessandro.”

Van Veldhoven’s decision worked perfectly for his team as Delhi raced out to a 2-0 lead within the first 15 minutes through goals from Dos Santos and Hans Mulder. Dos Santos was the outstanding player in the match and strike partner Fernandes also excelled. The Delhi head coach was quick to praise the duo. “I’m happy that Francis and Dos Santos had good games. It’s good for us,” Van Veldhoven said.

Despite holding a two-goal lead, Delhi were forced into making further tactical adjustments when Souvik Chakraborty was sent off on the stroke of halftime after a second yellow card. Van Veldhoven elaborated on the changes that he made to the team’s shape during halftime.

“You need to maintain your organisation. We said that we’ll play the game in a 4-4-1 formation,” revealed the Delhi head coach. “Marmentini (Dos Santos) was higher up the pitch, Hans Mulder and (Bruno) Arias were playing a little out of defence, and Francis (Fernandes) was playing in a defensive midfield position at times.”

The latter impressed throughout the game, regardless of position. Van Veldhoven explained that Fernandes’ pace influenced him to play the Goan winger as a centre forward.

“I know that Francis is one of the fastest strikers I have,” said Van Veldhoven, who himself played as a striker, midfielder, and defender at various stages in his playing career. “After we lost the game at home I said okay, this is the best solution. And it’s good to give a player who’s worked so hard such confidence.”

Fernandes himself was asked whether it was difficult to get accustomed to his role for the match, but he responded by saying he was comfortable playing through the centre. “It is not a new thing for me. I’ve played for India and also at other times in my career in that position,” Fernandes explained. “The coach just told me to play in that position and go for the open spaces.”

Goalkeeper Kristof van Hout also had an excellent performance, after being constantly kept on his toes by NorthEast’s attackers. He was quick to deflect praise onto the entire team when this was pointed out to him, however, saying the result was a big boost for everyone. “Of course, it’s important not only for me but for the whole team. I’m very happy with the performance of the team,” said the giant Dutchman. 

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