Talking Points From Week 10 Of ISL 5

Chennaiyin FC 1 – ATK 3

     1) Change In Formation Necessitated By Misfiring Strikers

Chennaiyin have found the first half of the season to be tough going and if they were hoping for a change in fortunes going into the tenth round of matches, it wasn’t forthcoming. In keeping with their tactics this season, they dominated possession and created chances but ended up on the losing side yet again. John Gregory has moved from a 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1 in the last couple of matches with Inigo Calderon moving into defensive midfield. This has partly been forced on him by his misfiring strikers and the extra body further upfield has definitely helped with the goals but leaves them vulnerable at the back. Being 10 points outside the playoff places, they probably have no other choice. Draws shall not suffice. Chennaiyin needs to win both their fixtures against Mumbai and Delhi before the winter break starts to stand any chance of breaking into the top four.

     2) Lyngdoh Finds A Few Rare Minutes

A year is a long time in football. When Eugeneson Lyngdoh was picked up by ATK for 1.1 crore rupees in the 2017-18 draft, making him the joint costliest acquisition, no one batted an eyelid. He had established himself as the best midfielder in the land, starring for both Bengaluru and the national team, and the payday was reflective of his standing in Indian football. Unfortunately, a Lateral Collateral Ligament injury to his left knee early in the season kept him out of the game for nearly a year and he has lost his place at the club and the Indian side. At ATK, he finds himself competing with Pranoy Halder, Gerson Vieira, Everton Santos and Noussair El Maimouni for a deep lying spot in Coppell’s preferred 4-2-3-1 and minutes have been hard to come by. His appearance late in this game was only his second this season and the player will have to fight hard to turn his career around.

Delhi Dynamos 2 – Mumbai City FC 4

     3) Lightweight Dynamos Remain Winless

Delhi remain the only team in the league without a win and stay rooted to the bottom of the table. They refuse to help themselves, conceding points from winning positions time and again. After taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, they shot themselves on the foot quite a few times in the second period. Pritam Kotal conceded an unnecessary penalty in the box and then Narayan Das and Marti Crespi combined to gift another goal for Mumbai to take the lead. Gianni Zuiverloon, the only defender to have a good game, brought the Dynamos back from the dead with an equalizer but then Delhi’s famed end-game woes struck again, and they conceded twice more. There is only so much one can blame bad luck when worrying patterns emerge. The side needs to find more steel to go with their attractive football.

     4) Ruthless Efficiency From The Islanders

Mumbai have picked up 13 points from their last 5 games. Only table toppers, Bengaluru have more in that period. While their victories are usually fashioned on defensive solidity and the odd goal or two, this game saw a departure from the norm and they scored four goals. In one half! Their opponents did contribute by being excessively generous, but it is worth noting that Mumbai had only eight shots at goal the entire game, six of which found the target. They reaped the rewards for not wasting their opportunities, something Delhi have been guilty of all season. The result is a place in the playoff places as things stand, even though they have a much inferior goal difference to the others at the top end of the table.

Kerala Blasters 1 – Jamshedpur FC 1

     5) Blasters Fans Protest By Not Showing Up

Germany’s 1990 World Cup winning captain, Lothar Matthaus, was at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to take in the famed Blasters fan experience. Unfortunately for him, this was the night the fans decided to stay away, disgruntled with their team over their performances this season, and possibly previous seasons. I had written in my preseason preview that the Blasters fans deserve better football than what they are accustomed to. Even though murmurs have been building up against David James for a while now, this was the first time that prominent banners were put up expressing that disapproval. Only a record low 8451 fans turned up to watch another disjointed performance, full of spirit but lacking in end product. Luck has definitely not gone Kerala’s way this season, and the penalty awarded to Jamshedpur was another example of that, but the problems lay elsewhere.

     6) Jamshedpur Ride Their Luck To Take Home A Point

This wasn’t a great performance by the Red Miners. They were under the pump for most of the night and could easily have lost the game. The fact that they took something from the game owed itself to a dodgy decision from the referee after consultation with his linesman. Tim Cahill, who had been anonymous for most of the night, ran onto a long ball only to be taken out by the Kerala goalkeeper, Dheeraj Singh. Contact was made outside the box and while Cahill did end up falling inside, the result should have been a freekick and not a penalty. Carlos Calvo converted, and Jamshedpur got the point that kept them in touch with the playoff places.

NorthEast United 1 – Bengaluru FC 1

     7) Highlanders Give The Leaders Something To Think About

It is not often that Bengaluru look clueless on the field, but they were a bit befuddled in the first half against NorthEast United. The Highlanders took control of the tie and won the midfield battle, something that happens very rarely when the opposition is BFC. They will definitely feel that the game should have been put to bed, especially after they got their goal. NorthEast probably erred in sitting back and inviting pressure towards the end of the game rather than chasing a second goal, but they will learn from this experience. On this performance, they look like proper contenders now rather than just a team having a good run of results. The reverse fixture will be keenly awaited.

     8) Bengaluru Get Their Tactics Wrong

By relegating Chencho Gyeltshen to the bench and playing Sunil Chhetri upfront, Carles Cuadrat was asking his team to adapt to a formation they have not played this season. With runs from midfield being controlled by an excellent NorthEast United, Chhetri often found himself running the channels in the first half and delivering balls into the box with no one present to make any use of them. Carles changed things by pushing Nishu Kumar forward in the second half and rejigging his defence, and while this helped wrest back some control, it was only with the introduction of Gyeltshen and Kean Lewis that the match turned. In hindsight, the Bhutanese striker should probably have kept his place upfront to begin with. The Blues are much better off when they play off a focal point and with Miku not around, Chencho is the best option they have for that role.

Mumbai City FC 2 – Chennaiyin FC 0

     9) Mumbai Win By Staying True To Type

The stats on this game suggest that this was an all action encounter. Between them, both teams had 30 shots on goal and made 42 tackles. It wasn’t all fire and fury however. During a drab encounter in which hardly any football of note got played, Mumbai managed to sneak in another win by converting two of their four shots on target. Lothar Matthaus, who was at this game as well, preferred his phone to the action and had some harsh words at halftime for the way both teams went about their business. Mumbai will not care too much. They got three points and at this stage of the competition, that is all that matters as far as they are concerned.

     10) Defending Champions Showing Signs Of Throwing In The Towel

Chennaiyin seem resigned to their fate and a campaign that has seen several lukewarm performances looks like it will peter out in a whimper, even though we are still only halfway through the season. Individuals right across the board should take the blame, and at the moment, only Raphael Augusto can claim to have put in showings remotely close to what he had to offer last season. He played the pass of the game in this match, slicing open the Mumbai defence with a delicious through ball late in the first half, but Thoi Singh preferred to take the shot rather than square it to Carlos Salom, which is understandable given how bad Chennaiyin’s forwards have been. The end result was a wild, sliced hit that flew across the goalmouth and into the distance, a fitting metaphor for the teams hopes this season.

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