ATK 0 – NorthEast United 1
1) Sena Ralte Does His Team No Favours
ATK went into this game wanting more control of proceedings after having misplaced a third of their passes in the first game against Kerala. Two bookable offences by Sena Ralte by the half hour mark meant that the playbook had to be tossed into the bin. Jayesh Rane had to be sacrificed in midfield to bring in the extra defender and ATK did a good job of containing NorthEast attacks while carrying the occasional threat, mainly through Manuel Lanzarote, who made up for a lacklustre performance in the first game. John Johnson showed his quality too with two last ditch clearances preventing certain goals. Two losses in two at home was not what Steve Coppell would have hoped for given the squad at his disposal and he badly needs a good result at Delhi to kickstart his team’s campaign.
2) NorthEast Struggle To Carry Offensive Threat
The Highlanders have made a great start to their campaign, taking four points from two games against title contenders, Goa and ATK. While they controlled this game against a team that played with ten men for the most part, it must be worrying that they only troubled the ATK defence towards the end of the match. A visibly tiring defence conceded a few efforts, including the winner from a corner, but NorthEast found opportunities hard to come by. They seem to be reliant on Federico Gallego, but he was not given time on the ball by ATK and lost the ball a league high 26 times. Rowllin Borges had another solid game in the middle of the park, capping his performance with a goal. While Eelco Schattorie will take that, the manager must be hoping that the players further upfield will produce the goods at Chennai.
Kerala Blasters 1 – Mumbai City FC 1
3) Dheeraj Singh Shaky On The High Balls
Dheeraj was one of the players to come out with credit from the U17 World Cup last year and the 18 year old has been entrusted with goalkeeping duties ahead of the experienced Naveen Kumar. While he has been mostly solid between the sticks in the first two games, a vulnerability on crosses and high balls has been detected which would not have gone unnoticed by opposition managers. Modern goalkeepers are big units and at 5’10’’, he will have to work hard to overcome an obvious handicap and be successful. Current India stopper, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, is 6’4’’. The man who stood in for him at the SAFF Cup, Vishal Kaith, is 6’2’’. Both of them may have got a hand to Mumbai’s equalizer.
4) Is Lucian Goian Showing His Age?
The Mumbai captain has been central to the team’s plans since 2016. His personality on the pitch mirrors the highly physical approach introduced to the squad by Alexandre Guimaraes and continued now by Jorge Costa. He led the league on tackles in 2016 and was only behind Ahmed Jahouh last season. Even this year, he has had the most tackles, duels and clearances for the side and it looks like he will be a strong presence for the Islanders. However, he has also committed four fouls and lost the ball a team high 33 times in two games, and while these stats are par for the course in the ISL, he seems to be just that split second late with his interventions. A 35-year-old body may have begun to give way. Or it may just be an anomaly and hopefully, he will be back to his best when the league resumes.
Chennaiyin FC 1 – FC Goa 3
5) Jeje A Concern For The Champions
When Jeje Lalpekhlua lines up for India against China on Saturday (assuming he is picked by Stephen Constantine), it will be on the back of an indifferent start to the season. He had a couple of gilt-edged chances to score against Bengaluru in the first match, which he missed, and he followed that up with an ineffectual display against Goa. Only the goalkeeper made lesser passes among those who started the game, and he struggled to hold up play, let alone get into scoring positions. He was eventually hauled off with a quarter of the game left and while his manager defended his performance claiming that he lacked service, which he did, Chennaiyin must be concerned. Hardly a team that is prolific with goals, they depended heavily on the nine he scored last season. His form will have to pick up soon if the Marina Machans are to challenge for the title.
6) Ahmed Jahouh Imperious For The Gaurs
With Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote hogging the scoring and assist charts last season, Jahouh’s work in midfield went a little under the radar. The man they call the conductor of the orchestra is back again for ISL 5 and he gave the most complete performance by a player before the international break. Alongside Lenny Rodrigues, who had a great game as well, he pulled the strings and dictated play in a man of the match display. He won all four of his tackles, and exhibited a fine range of passing from a deep lying position. Most of his balls were played forward, sustaining wave after wave of Goan attacks. To cap things off, it was his cross which was flicked on by Coro in the box for Mourtada Fall to score and put the game beyond the hosts. His importance to FC Goa cannot be overstated and they will hope for more performances like this.
Bengaluru FC 2 – Jamshedpur FC 2
7) Dimas Delgado Has Been Missed
It was while Delgado lay injured on the sidelines that Chennaiyin scored to take the lead in last season’s final, a lead they would not relinquish. That situation was in some ways a metaphor for how much Bengaluru depend on the Spaniard. He has remained out through the preseason and AFC Cup engagements and his absence has carried forward into the beginning of this season. BFC have not clicked into gear yet, and a lot of that can be attributed to the disjointed link between defence and attack. Dimas fulfils that specific role in this side and it will please Carles Cuadrat that he got in a few minutes against Jamshedpur towards the end of the game. The break in the season will allow him more time to hit his stride.
8) How old is Gourav Mukhi really?
Gourav Mukhi introduced himself to the limelight with a goal that levelled things up for Jamshedpur at the Kanteerava. The commentators at the time mentioned that at sixteen, he was the youngest ever goal scorer in the ISL. Except that he did not look like a typical 16 year old with his build and handlebar moustache. Reports surfaced soon after the game of him and other team members in a Jharkhand side being suspended in 2015 for age fraud. It may be that the player has followed an age old Indian tradition of altering his age for official documentation and hopefully, the furore shall soon pass. Sixteen or eighteen, his was a very well taken goal and it is heartening to see more young Indian players appear in the goal scoring charts this season.