Delhi Dynamos 2 – Kerala Blasters 0
1) First Home Win For Delhi
The Dynamos fans have a win to celebrate at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at long last. Josep Gombau’s side finally got three points on the board in their previous game and it would have been heartening for the manager to see his side follow up that effort with another win. A seventh placed finish is probably all that Delhi can hope for now after a disastrous first half of the season and they have done well to pick points up against those struggling alongside them at the bottom of the table. They have made it a habit of conceding late goals and it would have pleased their supporters no end that they controlled proceedings after going a goal up, before sealing the points with an injury time penalty.
2) Nelo Vingada In No-Win Situation
It is worth pondering over why Vingada chose to take this assignment. Given where Kerala are in the table, qualification for the playoffs was the longest of shots and six games is hardly any time to bring about lasting changes. The Blasters owners should probably have made the move much earlier in the campaign when it had been clear for a long time that David James’ tenure was going nowhere. An own goal saved the team in the previous game against ATK, but Kerala’s shortcomings were highlighted yet again in an insipid display, keeping with the theme of the season.
Mumbai City FC 0 – FC Goa 2
3) Islanders Miss Their Accelerator
Mumbai came into this game in a fine run of form, not having lost in the league since October. A big contributor to their success has been Modou ‘The Accelerator’ Sougou, whose lung-bursting runs and finishes have been integral to Jorge Costa’s counter attacking tactics. Sougou got injured in the previous game against Bengaluru and while Matias Mirabaje is a fine player and is capable of the odd goal, he is not quite a number nine. The goal threat was lacking against Goa and as the competition moves into the business end, the Islanders will be hoping that their top scorer is back in action soon.
4) Coro Alone At The Top
Ferran Corominas’ assault on sole ownership of the all-time ISL scoring record had been put on hold by the prolonged international break. He looked rusty against Jamshedpur and still seems to be easing back in to the cut and thrust of competitive football but when Subhashish Bose brought him down in the box late in the second half, it was but inevitable that he would tuck the resulting penalty in. He now has 29 goals in an astounding 33 games, and moves clear of Iain Hume, making him the all-time goal scorer in the league. With Hume back to full fitness at Pune and Sunil Chhetri lurking close by, he has his hands full though. For now, he enjoys the view from the summit and if he is still there by the end of the season, he would have done very well for himself.
Chennaiyin FC 1 – FC Pune City 2
5) Vineeth Off The Mark For Adopted Team
Chennaiyin were much better in this game than they were against NorthEast United the previous week. Their defence continues to flounder but there was more threat in the attacking areas thanks to energetic performances from Gregory Nelson and Raphael Augusto, who managed to open up spaces around the Pune penalty area. C.K. Vineeth got off the mark for his new team, reacting quickest to a deflection in the box before slotting home beyond Kamaljit Singh. It remains to be seen if he can contribute consistently, which had seemed to be beyond both Jeje Lalpekhlua and Carlos Salom before him. That would be the only way the Marina Machans could get off the bottom of the table before the season ends.
6) Switch In Tactics Reap Dividends
Pune’s players delivered a win for new boss, Phil Brown, in his first match in charge. In a horrible season for one of the pre-tournament favourites, interim manager Pradyum Reddy had steadied the ship somewhat, and the Stallions had won both their matches in December. This gave them some confidence heading into this fixture and Pune won three matches in a row for the first time in their history. The team had lacked creativity for most of the season and Brown addressed that problem by playing three at the back with Ashique Kuruniyan and Diego Carlos as wing-backs. It had the desired effect and Pune looked an offensive threat throughout the match, albeit against a team out of form. A playoff place looks unlikely, but they are mathematically still in it, and with Marcelinho playing with freedom rarely seen this season, the Stallions could probably still make a good fist of it.
ATK 2 – Jamshedpur FC 1
7) Lanza-Garcia Combine Works A Treat
The question asked previous week was if the new recruit, Edu Garcia, could play alongside Manuel Lanzarote in this ATK lineup. The answer was an emphatic yes on this showing. Both goals were identical in their conception, execution and parties involved. Garcia would pick the ball up near the halfway line and make searing runs through the heart of the Jamshedpur defence before being brought down by Dhanachandra Singh on the edge of the penalty box. Lanzarote would then take over and place the ball perfectly beyond the reach of a diving Subrata Paul. Steve Coppell’s hand has been forced by his team’s position in the table and he has no choice but to play both Spaniards if ATK have to make the playoffs. With this victory, they move level with Jamshedpur and are only three points behind fourth placed NorthEast United.
8) Red Miners Stumble Yet Again
Jamshedpur’s spate of draws is catching up with them and they are in real danger of slipping out of contention. In the absence of Carlos Calvo, who received a three-match ban from the AIFF for racial abuse against Delhi’s Gianni Zuiverloon, they lack a goal threat further exacerbated by the absences of Tim Cahill and Gaurav Mukhi. Youngsters, Sumeet Passi and Farukh Choudhary, have been handed more responsibility than they can take at this stage of their careers and there is a greater dependence on set-pieces for goals. The good news is that three of their final four fixtures are at home where they have a decent record. Wins in those games should be enough for them to get across the line, but Cesar Ferrando has to find himself a trusted goal scorer to do that for him.
Delhi Dynamos 0 – FC Goa 0
9) Revival At Delhi Continues
The Dynamos are making a habit of this. After floundering for most of last season, they went on a six-game unbeaten run to eventually finish eight in the table. Josep Gombau’s men look like they are repeating those exploits. After picking up only four points in their first eleven games, the Dynamos have seven to show for in their last three games. This was arguably the most impressive performance of the lot, given that the two victories were against struggling Chennaiyin and Kerala. With no shots on target in the match, Delhi did not carry too much threat but defended stoutly and kept the marauding Goa frontline at bay. There was no questioning who the happier manager was at the end. Gombau’s aim will be to finish the season strongly, and his team are doing just that.
10) Goa Miss Chance To Strengthen Position
The Gaurs could have gone second with victory at Delhi and put seven points between them and fifth-placed Jamshedpur. With only four games to go, that would have placed them in a very strong position. As it turns out, they’ve given hope to the chasing pack and for a neutral, the league table is very interestingly poised. Goa dominated possession of the ball as usual but failed to produce the incisive ball often enough and when they did, Francisco Dorronsoro was quickly off his line to cut off the danger. The half-fit Edu Bedia was thrown in at halftime to change things, but Delhi stood firm and Goa had to be content with a point at the end. Sergio Lobera will be pleased with the clean sheet though. It was his side’s third in a row and will hold them in good stead.