It's time for Deportivo Independiente Medellin to step up
It seems like an eternity ago when DIM narrowly lost against Junior in the final of the 2nd phase in the Colombian division.
5-4 losers over two legs was a disappointing end to a season with many more ups than downs. As a consolation prize, DIM qualified for the Copa Libertadores which certainly helped soften the blow. For those who are new to South American Football, the Copa Libertadores is the South American equivalent of the Champions League. The Copa Libertadores has recently just begun.
The expectations were high for DIM and the future was starting to look very bright, could this team continue the moment and build off the wonderful season before which had seen them top of the aggregate table, reach the 2nd phase final and also qualify for the Copa Libertadores.
So far the answer is a resounding no!
From the start of the season DIM have been disappointing, they started the season with a 2-1 defeat to Patriotas Boyacá. Fair enough a tough game away to start the season, they then followed that up with a 1-1 draw with La Equidad.
This is the sort of game DIM would have won last season and failed to take the many chances that they created with a total of 24 shots but only 5 on target. Things didn't get better after a 3-2 defeat to last year champions Junior, with all 5 goals coming in the first half. Three games in, 1 point and sitting 19th in the table and call for a little panic.
Before DIM could reach the group stage of the Copa Libertadores they needed to get through the 1st round of qualification. Palestino FC was the opponent drawn who got into the competition after winning the Copa Chile. Palestino were a team not to be overlooked but maybe that's what happened.
After a 1-1 draw in Chile, the odds were in the favour of DIM who must have been confident that they could take care of business and put themselves two games away from the group stage. Instead DIM somehow managed a 1-1 draw in which they were very sluggish and took the game to penalties, Palestino won the coin toss and suddenly home-field advantage was flipped as the penalties would be taken in front of the away fans.
DIM missed their first two penalties and couldn't recover, Palestino converted on all four of the penalties they took and won the shootout 4-1. Just like that all of the work from last season had disappeared and they had no one to blame but themselves.
The heart-breaking disappointment of the Copa Libertadores had to be put behind DIM very quickly and attention turned back the Liga Aguila. DIM needed to bounce back in a big way and try to provide something that had been missing so far this season, this task would be made harder as they had to face America De Cali away from home. This wouldn't be an easy task and it was made much harder after going 1-0 in the first 10 minutes. America De Cali was too much for DIM on the day and dominated with a 3-0 win, this was now two points from a possible fifteen and alarm bells are certainly ringing at this point.
In every game so far DIM have yet to keep a clean sheet and when you mix that with an attack that is struggling to take the chances they are getting then you are in for a rough time and so far that might be an understatement. Deportivo Cali was the next team to visit the Atanasio Girardot Stadium and it was the same old story for DIM. They held the ball very well and created a lot of chances that last season they would have put away. Unfortunately, the possession and attempts resulted in nothing and Cali grabbed the first goal and if it wasn't for a late goal from Leonardo Castro then it could have been much worse.
Aguilas was next in store for DIM and a battle at the bottom of the table, a sentence that no one would have said before the season started. DIM needed a win here badly and get themselves off the foot of the table. A victory away from home is never easy though and a lot more pressure was on DIM to get something from this game, and hopefully give their season a bit of life.
A game that if looked at via stats showed a game which was an even game with DIM having more of the chances. This, however, doesn't tell the full story. This game really was a game of two halves, DIM looked to come straight out of the blocks and set the tone early. It was a must-win game for them and you could tell. A goal was always coming for DIM if they stuck at it and in the 46th a great free kick from Elvis Perlaza into the box was flicked on by the captain and leading goal scorer German Cano to give DIM a 1-0 lead going into the half. The second half was a much more even game and it took a lot of heart for DIM to hang on and get the first win of the season.
This was a win that means so much more than three points and hopefully can be a stepping stone for DIM and allow them to put the beginning of the season behind them and really start to replicate the form that got them into the final last season. Tonight they play Santa Fe in what should be a really interesting and physical match, both teams will be hoping to push forward and look to gain ground on the top eight.
So What was the reason for such poor play? Injuries? Lack of rest? Hangover from last season? The answer isn't fully clear and it's certainly not straight forward but DIM have to look to use the little momentum that they have and start making real progress this season, before it's too late.