Hyderabad FC 0 – NorthEast United 1
1) Home Team Fail To Take Advantage Of Dominant First Half
Hyderabad built on their first win of the campaign in the previous game against Kerala with an impressive first half showing against the Highlanders. The squad is still shorn of a few foreign signings and Phil Brown has been forced to play a few Indian players who would have otherwise found playing time hard to come by. Without setting the world on fire, these additions have added some spirit and endeavour to a side that was lacking in that department last season. If the team had taken their chances in the first forty-five minutes, the result could have been very different. Instead, an unfortunate mistake by Shankar Sampingiraj, one of those young players who have come in recently, settled the game in NorthEast’s favour. Notwithstanding the result, Phil Brown can take heart from the last two games. The immediate future doesn’t look as bleak as it did in October.
2) Highlanders Lucky To Take All Three Points
The first half performance from NorthEast United was almost comatose in nature. The team just did not turn up in any department and drove Robert Jarni to distraction on the sidelines. Not surprisingly, he took the main culprit, Mislav Komorski, and Nikhil Kadam out at halftime in an effort to turn things around. The Croat kept giving the ball away in dangerous areas and it was only the host’s generosity that ensured that the scoreboard wasn’t disturbed by the break. The changes did not improve things much even though it was one of the replacements in Maximiliano Barreiro who tucked in the winning penalty. The Highlanders are comfortably placed heading into the international break but the manager has been given a few things to chew on; most noticeably the groin injury suffered by their star player, Asamoah Gyan.
Mumbai City FC 2 – FC Goa 4
3) Defenders Get Rare Goal Joy
The Islanders shipped four goals for the second game in a row. They threatened briefly to come back into the game like they had against Odisha but Goa had way too much firepower for that to come to fruition. They missed Rowlinn Borges yet again in the middle of the park and the Gaurs could find their way forward with impunity. On a positive note, Sauvik Chakrabarti and Sarthak Golui added rare goals to their name with the former scoring his first ever goal in the league on his seventy-fourth appearance. The goals do not mask a worrying lack of output from the frontline that promised so much in the first game against Kerala. Jorge Costa will be hoping that Modou Sougou recovers from his hamstring injury as soon as possible and is available to lead the line. Mumbai look a bit lost up front without him.
4) Gaurs Click Into Gear
Goa were back to their free-flowing best after grinding out two late draws in their previous games. They dominated possession and had two-thirds of the ball as they passed Mumbai off the park. Coro had his obligatory goal and Hugo Boumous scored yet again even though he injured himself in the process and had to be replaced. Unfortunately for the Islanders and the rest of the league, it was Edu Bedia who took his place in his first appearance of the season. The Spaniard scored seven goals in the last campaign and assisted his teammates six times. The Gaurs have been able to ease their foreign stars back into action and now that they are all back, will expect to kick on when the league resumes after the international break.
Kerala Blasters 0 – Odisha FC 0
5) Rafi Makes His Way Home
Mohammed Rafi returned to the Blasters after having spent two seasons at Chennaiyin where he was a backup striker who was rarely used. At the age of thirty-seven, he was not expected to get too much game time at Kerala either and it was only an injury to Messi Bouli and Bartholomew Ogbeche’s illness that gave him his opportunity. He got just the forty-eight minutes and suffered the ignominy of being substituted after coming on as one himself. Rafi scored four goals in the 2015 season for the Blasters; all of which were headers. His teammates tried to find him in the box regularly when he came on but unfortunately for the home side, it did not work in this instance and the Manjappada had to go home disappointed.
6) Strange Substitutions From Gombau
The coming together of Messi Bouli and Aridane Santana as they both went for the ball at a corner was sickening to watch. Both players have been reported to be doing much better now and that is good news. Aridane’s goals have been crucial to Odisha’s recent performances and the team missed his presence when he was stretchered off. Oddly though, Josep Gombau brought a defender in Carlos Delgado to replace him, sticking Jerry Mawihmingthanga up top. It took away from the Mizo winger’s strengths and the away side stumbled through the first half. To his credit, the manager recognised his mistake and brought Daniel Lalhlimpuia in for the second half. It did not have the desired effect but Odisha would have been glad to walk away with a point and their first clean sheet of the season.
ATK 3 – Jamshedpur FC 1
7) Garcia Pushing For Starting Place
ATK continued on their merry way and ensured that they would end the gameweek at the top of the table. They had lesser of the ball than Jamshedpur but looked more dangerous on the break and were rewarded with two penalties for their efforts. Roy Krishna tucked them both in before Edu Garcia came in off the bench to put the seal on victory. The Spaniard has had to bide his time with the manager preferring Javier Hernández in the hole behind the two strikers but he is already the joint top scorer in the side. He has managed that after spending only sixty-seven minutes on the pitch. The Kolkatan side have an embarrassment of riches on their bench but those in the starting places look the part. Garcia might have to be content with his role as super-sub for now but it is a nice problem for Antonio López Habas to have.
8) Piti Injury Hurts Red Miners
Thirty-eight year old Piti has been the creative force behind Jamshedpur performances this season. Noé Acosta has been brought in to relieve him towards the closing stages of matches but had to step up to the plate sooner in this game. Unfortunately for the Red Miners, he struggled with the pace of the game and the tide changed after Piti’s departure in the thirty-eighth minute. Sergio Castel got a goal late on through a penalty to make things interesting but the chances were not as forthcoming. Jamshedpur have hit the right balance with their foreign players with Memo moving into the backline to support Tiri. Any prolonged absence could disrupt their rhythm and Antonio Iriondo will pull out all stops to ensure that the ex-Granada man is back as soon as possible.
Bengaluru FC 3 – Chennaiyin FC 0
9) Bengaluru Dominate Southern Derby
Even with the presence of Kerala Blasters in the region, this is the derby that has lived up to its billing in the last three seasons. The games are fiercely contested and there is always a fair bit of needle in the buildup and after. Even with the miserable season Chennaiyin had last year, they still managed to beat Bengaluru at home. This game was no tight affair though. The number of shots the home team had at goal entered double digits around the half hour mark with only two goals to show for it. It should have been at least five. Erik Paartalu made his first appearance of the season and scored from a set-piece, as he does. Sunil Chhetri ended his goal drought with a stunning effort bringing back memories of a similar strike last year by Miku in the corresponding fixture. There was even a rare goal for Thongkhosiem Haokip to put the gloss on proceedings. After three successive draws, the Blues are back in business.
10) Gregory First To Lose Job This Season?
The Marina Machans have not won in seven games across seasons. Funnily enough, their last win was against Bengaluru in February. That result followed another seven-match winless run. Since they were crowned champions at the Kanteerava in March 2018, they have won two games in twenty-two. If you thought their nine points from eighteen games last season was bad, they are on their way towards attaining half of that this season on current form. Chennaiyin have tightened up defensively but goals are proving to be a real problem and questions must be asked of the manager. The recruitment has been disastrous and they remain the only side not to find the net this campaign. John Gregory suggested after the game that the task of reviving the side’s fortunes may be beyond him and that hints at a manager at the end of his tether.