Talking Points From Week 2 Of ISL 6

ATK 5 – Hyderabad FC 0

     1) ATK Present Title Credentials

The team from Kolkata may have lost their opener in Kochi but the scoreline did not do justice to the way they played that night. They went about setting that right in the best manner imaginable, pumping five goals past a hapless Hyderabad. The home side had a whopping twenty shots on goal with twelve on target. They were solid at the other end of the pitch too, with Antonio López Habas matching Phil Brown’s formation with three at the back. In a statement performance, every single ATK player involved put in a good performance. David Williams and Roy Krishna showed what the hype is all about up front sharing three goals between them. A player of Edu Garcia’s quality had to be content with a place on the bench but came on in the last half-hour and twice found the back of the net. After a couple of underwhelming seasons, the two-time champions are back with a bang. 

     2) Disastrous Debut For Hyderabad

They may be new only in name, but Hyderabad gave their new supporters a debut to forget. They had more of the ball but were completely outclassed in all areas of the pitch. Their best player, Marcelinho, only lasted an hour before hobbling off with a knee injury and the side looked lost without him. Giles Barnes and Robin Singh had a frustrating night up front starved of any service and when they did get the ball, Agus Garcia and Anas Edathodika did well to take it off them. Both of them had to deal with elbows to their faces from Robin, who would have been hoping to build on a strong end to the previous season. To make matters worse, Rafa López was lost to injury as well and Brown will do well to get his players up for their next fixture in Jamshedpur. Lose there and it will be a slightly awkward introduction to their fans in Hyderabad early next month. 

NorthEast United 2 – Odisha FC 1

     3) Gyan Comes To The Party

The man with the big reputation scored on his home debut to snatch three points for the Highlanders in Guwahati. He was inexplicably left unmarked at a corner and when a player of Asamoah Gyan’s quality is given time and space in the box, he will invariably deliver. NorthEast deserved to win on the balance of play, carrying a counter-attacking threat throughout. Redeem Tlang has been tasked with adding more goals to his game and he scored in the second minute after being unselfishly played in by Panagiotis Triadis. The Greek winger needs goals himself, having never gotten onto the scoresheet in India, but he was a lively presence before being substituted on the hour mark. Wayne Vaz had his ISL debut at centre-back and gave a good account of himself but the headlines on the night belonged to the Ghanaian target man. 

     4) Gombau Could Be A Dead Man Walking

The Spaniard surely is on borrowed time now. His team’s failings are so familiar now that one expects them to succumb in the manner they do almost every time they get on the field. He did give up on his determination to play a foreign goal-keeper by dropping Francisco Dorronsoro for an extra non-Indian outfielder but the result was the same. They have now lost their last three fixtures 1-2, including the last game of the previous campaign. The pattern is the same. They concede the first goal but find a way to equalise without really showing any quality in the final third. The sucker-punch then lands after the 80th minute following a lapse of concentration, either individual or collective. Odisha remain on the road until their first home fixture on the 24th of November. Will Gombau still be in his job by then? 

Chennaiyin FC 0 – Mumbai City FC 0

     5) Crivellaro Adds Creative Spark To Machans

It must have been quite some blow for Chennaiyin to lose their mainstay of many years in Raphael Augusto. He had been the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal campaign last season and his move to Bengaluru has created a huge void in the squad. The team got off the mark at home after a disappointing loss in Goa and Augusto’s countryman, Rafael Crivellaro, has shown signs of filling in adequately. He caught the eye in Goa after coming on towards the latter stages of that match and was at the heart of most Chennaiyin attacks against Mumbai. No player from either side made more than the four key passes he conjured up nor the five shots he had on goal. It is another matter that only one of those shots found the target and that one definitely should have found the back of the net. If he can show more composure in front of goal though, Chennaiyin may finally click into gear in the coming matches. 

     6) All-Indian Defence Do Well For Mumbai

The Islanders have filled the Lucian Goian left hole in defence quite nicely. They have not conceded yet in their two games and Mato Grgic’s absence due to injury was not felt in Chennai. Pratik Chowdhary had come in after the Croatian got injured in the first half against Kerala and he continued his good work yet again. Sarthak Golui has been a revelation after a promising season at Pune last year and the two of them have formed a good understanding at centre-back. Subhashish Bose and Sauvik Chakrabarti have carried on from where they left off last year and it augurs well for the squad that their all-Indian back five, including Amrinder Singh in goal, are doing well. The only sour note was Sauvik’s dismissal in the 94th minute, bringing to an end his record for most consecutive appearances in the ISL. 

FC Goa 1 – Bengaluru FC 1

     7) Gaurs Break Four-Game Losing Streak Against Champions

Following a thrilling 4-3 win at the first time of asking in 2017, the Gaurs had lost four on the spin against the champions. That game is best remembered for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s red card and the feistiness on display set the tone for every fixture that came after. Bengaluru always seem to come up with the answers against Goa and for large portions of this game, seemed to have the upper hand. It was only with Jackichand Singh’s belated introduction in the second half that the tide began to turn. He could whip in a few balls for Coro and Manvir Singh to attack and it was one of those efforts which eventually led to a penalty in injury time. Coro made no mistake from the spot and while a home win did not materialise, an unwanted record has been disposed with for now. 

     8) Left-Back Experiment Ends In Mistake

Ashique Kuruniyan has been deployed as a full-back this season and seen success. His pace allows him to get up and down the pitch constantly and it is a credit to him that he has adapted well to the new role. Harmanjot Khabra provides the Blues with protection whenever he is bombing forward on the left side and his natural skills as a winger come to the fore. After an adequate first game against the Highlanders, it is defensively that he shone in this fixture, keeping Seiminlen Doungel quiet while also ensuring that Seriton Fernades did not advance much from the opposite half. It is a shame then that his ill-advised tackle on Coro in the box allowed Goa a route back into the match. Such are the margins in competitive football but there is no doubting that he will improve in that position as the league progresses. 

Jamshedpur FC 3 – Hyderabad FC 1

     9) Old Man Piti Making A Difference

I feared for Jamshedpur after they lost their two best players from last season to the Blasters. Antonio Iriondo’s overseas signings have come off though in the first two games of the campaign and the side find themselves top of the table. Leading the charge has been the oldest player in the league this season in Piti. The 38-year old has been at the heart of Jamshedpur’s attacking play and while he does not have the legs anymore, his considerable La Liga experience has undoubtedly helped. At the moment, the Red Miners are in fine working order and it must be pleasing to everyone concerned at the club that everyone seems to be singing off the same hymn sheet. With Amarjit Singh, Narender Gahlot and C.K. Vineeth yet to even make the match-day squads, the competition for places will only heat up in the coming weeks. 

     10) Injuries and Suspensions Costing Hyderabad Dear

Sergio Lobera named only three foreigners in his match day squad in their first game against Chennaiyin due to injury and suspension. Unlike the Spaniard though, Phil Brown does not have the necessary Indian talent within his squad to gloss over that detail. His side were poor for the second game running and could have lost by a greater scoreline. With Néstor Gordillo and Bobô already on the sidelines before the season kicked off, the Englishman lost Rafa López and Giles Barnes to injury in the 0-5 reverse against ATK. To make matters worse, the only player in the team who provided a threat of any sort in Marcelinho hobbled off around the hour mark yet again. With only two fit foreign players left at the moment, Brown will wrap Matthew Kilgallon and Marko Stankovic in cotton wool before his side’s home debut against Kerala. 

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