Bengaluru FC 1 – ATK 0
1) Lewis Getting His Chance Finally
Kean Lewis had a frustrating time at Pune last season. The ex-Mohun Bagan player had impressed on loan at Delhi in 2016 and was expected to kick on in his development. Ranko Popovic, however, did not favour the winger and he found appearances and game time hard to come by during the Stallions’ impressive run into the playoffs. Even though he was aware that Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh would be above him in the pecking order at Bengaluru, he signed for the club and has impressed off the bench. In his first start, it was his cross that Erik Paartalu guided into the net and he also made a game high four key passes. Once Miku comes back, a starting berth may be beyond him, but the Thane-born player has given Carles Cuadrat plenty to think about during the international break.
2) ATK Try To Expose Chink In BFC Armour
Steve Coppell must have studied the Bengaluru-Mumbai game from the previous week closely. The Islanders troubled the Bengaluru defence line constantly with the directness of their attacks and if there is another team in the ISL that revels in employing a similar strategy, it is the team from Kolkata. Long balls were launched regularly for Balwant Singh to chase and he made life uncomfortable for the two Blues centre-backs. If he had done better with a couple of chances that came his way, the story of this game would have been very different. The big Aussie, Eli Babalj, was introduced with fifteen minutes to go to do more of the same, but only managed to contribute to the offside tally which stood at ten at the end of the game. The strategy may not have paid off in the end, but the Bengal Tigers had the right game plan for the night.
FC Goa 5 – NorthEast United 1
3) Coro Comes Good And How
Coming into this game, it had been 315 playing minutes and more than a month since Ferran Corominas had last scored, allowing the Highlanders striker, Bartholomew Ogbeche, to catch up with him on top of the goal scoring charts for the season. After 59 minutes of sparring and near misses, he set that record straight. A Jackichand Singh cross at an uncomfortable height was emphatically turned in and that was the cue for the floodgates to open for the Gaurs. They got four more goals before the night was done, including another one for Coro that took him to the top of the all-time ISL scoring list with 28 goals, tied with Iain Hume. Incredibly, he got there in only his 30thgame. Not bad for a striker supposedly in the middle of a goal drought.
4) Komorski Missed At The Back
Mislav Komorski has been a rock at the back for NorthEast United, along with Mato Grgic, and the Croatian was greatly missed in this game. His replacement at centre-back, Gurwinder Singh, had a poor match and was culpable on two of Goa’s goals. He was hauled off after the Gaurs had scored their third. However, up until Coro opened the scoring, the tie was very much in the balance and Eelco Schattorie’s shift to a 4-4-2 had helped the Highlanders stifle their opposition. If a blatant handball by Carlos Pena in the box had been noticed by the referee, it could very well have been Ogbeche topping the scoring charts by the end of the game. He did have a goal on the cusp of added time, but by then it was a case of too little, too late.
Chennaiyin FC 1 – Delhi Dynamos 3
5) Un-Delhi Performance Delivers A Win At Last
It took them twelve attempts, but Delhi finally have a win on the board and move off the bottom of the table at the expense of their opponent. It was a very un-Delhi performance. They were content to cede possession and feed off Chennaiyin’s mistakes rather than engage in buildup play that had led to almost nothing in the previous games. They were rewarded with two goals from turnovers and another one from a clearing defensive header. Josep Gombau has finally realized that in this league, it can be a worthwhile exercise waiting for someone in the other team to take a bad touch or lose control of the ball. Those happen in plenty and the Dynamos capitalized for a change.
6) Chennaiyin Misery At Home Continues
The defending champions have been awful at home this season. Not that they have been much better away. Going into this game, the Machans had five points from eleven matches, with a solitary point to show for their efforts in front of their own fans. It must have given them hope that they were yet to lose against those teams around them at the bottom of the table with the reverse fixture ending 0-0 in Delhi. And they did start this game well, peppering the Dynamos goal with shots. Unfortunately for them, goalkeeper Francisco Dorronsoro was in fine fettle and Raphael Augusto uncharacteristically missed a couple of sitters. Even though a penalty brought them back into the tie after Delhi’s first goal, they never really looked like they would win and that proved to be the case.
Mumbai City FC 6 – Kerala Blasters 1
7) Sougou Pumps In Four In Rout
This was coming from the Islanders. After a slow start to the season, they had quietly been moving up the table and have had a sensational December. I had termed their display against Bengaluru in the previous game as the performance of the season and they bettered that against the Blasters in a comprehensive trashing. Leading the way was Modou Sougou who almost doubled his tally for the season with four well taken goals, each different from the other. It was the first time in the ISL a player had gotten a ‘haul’ in a match and was icing on the cake for the Senegalese striker, who also broke Sunil Chhetri’s all-time goals record for the club. If there’s one team that would be hating the arrival of the international break, it would be Mumbai. After building up a brilliant head of steam, they will have to start all over again in January and hope that they hit their stride immediately. A five-point buffer over fifth placed Jamshedpur is decent insurance though and boy, have they deserved it!
8) Blasters Hit Rock-Bottom
One image captured Kerala’s night to the T. As Mumbai broke forward in the 94thminute to score their final goal of the night, Courage Pekuson noticed that the laces on his right boot had come undone and bent down to sort it out, oblivious of the activity around him. By the time he was done, the Mumbai players were converging upon the goal scorer, Sougou, to celebrate. The Blasters were limp and disinterested, and it was a performance littered with errors and a lack of effort. It says a lot about the current state of the team if the most passion they could muster was at half time, when they converged on the referee to have a go at him for no apparent reason. Several senior players, the manager and the owners need to have a hard look at themselves. The simmering discontent amongst the fanbase grows by the day and has more than a month to fester.