FC Goa 3 – Delhi Dynamos 2
1) Mandar Is Not A Full-Back
No player is more synonymous with the Goan outfit than Mandar Rao Dessai, who has been part of the setup since 2014. He has been rewarded with the captaincy this season and has certainly sacrificed his personal interests for the team. The winger has been converted into a left-back and while he should be commended for taking on the role, he typifies this Sergio Lobera outfit to the tee. He provides pace and quality on the overlap while the Gaurs attack, but this means that there are always vast swathes of space for the opposition to exploit behind him. Time and again in this game, he was left exposed and more ruthless teams will exploit this vulnerability.
2) Delhi Fight Hard For Their Beleaguered Boss
It was instructional to watch Bikramjit Singh and the rest of the team run towards the Delhi bench and the manager in particular when he scored the opener. The gaffer has been under the spotlight in recent weeks over the side’s poor results, and it was nice to see his players show that they were fighting for him. Josep Gombau’s men should really have put this game to bed, spurning opportunity after opportunity to do so, but he will take great heart from this performance. If he is given time to turn things around, Delhi could very well find themselves repeating their showing from last year when they had a great second half to the season after a disastrous start.
NorthEast United 0 – Mumbai City FC 1
3) Highlanders Manager Highlights Absence Of Depth Once Again
Eelco Schattorie raised eyebrows before this game when he referred once more to his team’s lack of depth with injuries beginning to take a toll on the side. While it may have been a surprising take on things with the great start his side have made to the season, he was probably preparing everyone involved for what the future holds. NorthEast fans will hope that this result is a one-off and that the extra time afforded by the international break will give those with niggles a well-earned rest. However well-intentioned, they could probably also do with their manager keeping his opinions about what his team lack to himself while working with what he does have.
4) Mumbai Building Up Some Momentum
After the 0-5 trashing at the hands of Goa, Mumbai have tightened up defensively with the introduction of Joyner Lourenco at centre-back to partner Lucian Goian and they have had three clean sheets in a row. Subhashish Bose looks far more comfortable as a full-back and Jorge Costa made the right decision in moving the player to his preferred position. This narrow win, secured courtesy a heavily disputed goal, took them above their opponents and temporarily level on points at the top of the table. Mumbai do not play the effervescent brand of football that fellow incumbents at the time, Goa and Bengaluru employ, but they are a well-drilled outfit with good spirit in the ranks.
ATK 1 – FC Pune City 0
5) Uche Injury Has Inadvertently Helped ATK
Kalu Uche’s injury has been a setback for the Kolkatan side and he is expected to be out till the new year. I have been stressing here however that the side has looked unbalanced right through the season and the Nigerian’s injury has actually helped in addressing those concerns. Balwant Singh moved to his preferred role up front as the striker and Manuel Lanzarote played in an advanced role, having his best game for the club. He dictated play for the side, and with Gerson Vieira moving into central midfield as well, ATK hogged possession while also creating opportunities, something they have struggled to do so far. Steve Coppell is looking at signing a replacement striker, with Emiliano Alfaro the reported target. If that does pan out, it will be interesting to see if ATK revert back to type. That would be a pity.
6) Pune Welcome A Much-Needed International Break
No side in the ISL needed to get away from it all as much as the Stallions. Their poor season continued with an insipid display at Kolkata. They started the game with only three foreign players, with Alfaro sitting this one out. The bench was all Indian too. Adil Khan has been one of their better players but was surprisingly benched, with Martin Diaz brought in to take his place. It did not have the desired effect, and while they did somehow manage to keep ATK from scoring until the 82ndminute, they carried no threat of their own. A new manager is expected to be in place before their next game, and if Alfaro does move on loan, it will open up a slot for Iain Hume to come in as a replacement. The changes might just be what the doctor ordered for a beleaguered side.
Kerala Blasters 1 – FC Goa 3
7) Kerala’s Game Plan Not Working
It is no secret that Kerala do not score too many goals. It is a pattern that has held true right from the inception of the ISL. The Blasters have never finished a campaign with a positive goal difference and as things stand, that should be the case this season as well. On the flipside, they have had the ability to keep clean sheets. However, they have only kept one this season, in the first game against ATK, and that should be a worry for David James. While he has gotten the side to be slightly more attack minded than in the past, they still do not possess the greatest of goal threats and their ability to pick up points depend on a solid defence. The returning Anas Edathodika looked a bit rusty in his first outing of the season and while Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic have not made too many mistakes, Kerala have to tighten up a bit more at the back. Goa showed what good teams could do to them when in the mood.
8) Youngster Manvir Takes His Chance
Manvir Singh is an exciting prospect who has come through the ranks as a youth product at Minerva Punjab and then at Mohammedan Sporting. He has also broken into the Indian team over the past year and was impressive at the SAFF Championships held just before the season began. Playing time has been hard to come by at Goa though, with Coro and Miguel Palanca ahead of him in the pecking order. After being brought on with little time remaining to make an impact in some of the earlier games, he made the most of an extended runout in the second half of this game. Ten minutes after coming on, he rose highest at a corner to thump the ball home in an emphatic manner. The goal will give the youngster a lot of confidence and Sergio Lobera must be thrilled at yet another option in attack that has opened up for his marauding side.
FC Pune City 2 – Jamshedpur FC 1
9) Pune Stop The Rot For Now
This was a much needed first win of the season for Pune. They have been under the cosh for a long time and while this was not a great performance by any means, the points will give the side much needed confidence. Diego Carlos redeemed himself somewhat for the red card he inexcusably picked up against Goa with a well taken goal and while Marcelinho did not follow suit, he exerted more influence on proceedings than on previous occasions. His set-pieces do not carry the same threat as last season, however, and it was probably good that Marko Stankovic replaced him on corner duty for the winning goal. Pune needs influencers all over the park to spark a revival and cannot solely rely on the threat offered by their talisman.
10) Depleted Jamshedpur Have An Off Day
Jamshedpur were missing key personnel for very different reasons. Gaurav Mukhi has been suspended by the ISL pending an enquiry into age-fraud. Tim Cahill had only completed an emotional final appearance for Australia the previous day and most tellingly for this side on the night, Sergio Cidoncha had travelled back to Spain for treatment on an injured knee. As has been demonstrated throughout the season, especially in the stunning win over Goa, this Jamshedpur side depend heavily on the Spaniard to unlock defences. They may yet cope with his loss with Carlos Calvo and Pablo Morgado available in the ranks, but Cidoncha’s absence for the first time this season resulted in the end of an unbeaten run for the Red Miners.