Talking Points From Week 5 Of ISL 6

Bengaluru FC 1 – Kerala Blasters 0

     1) Blues Continue March Up Table

Bengaluru won yet another southern derby to move into the playoff spots. The Manuel Onwu experiment seems to have been shelved for now and Sunil Chhetri has started up top for two games in a row. The veteran striker has risen to the challenge and scored yet again from a well-worked corner routine. Raphael Augusto had headed in an Udanta Singh cross in the first half but it was wrongly ruled out because the linesman had deemed the ball to have gone out of play. Replays showed that it had not and attention was once again drawn to the quality of officiating in the league. After Chhetri’s goal in the 55th minute though, the champions took control of the game and the Blasters still await their first win in this fixture. 

     2) Ugly Incident Mars Southern Derby

An ugly incident post-match involving Blasters fans and stadium ushers marred what had been a great game played in a tremendous atmosphere. A record 27083 fans turned up to watch the game with the rarely used southern stand opened to meet the demand for tickets but as the intensity of rivalry increases between the sides, the threat of hooliganism hangs heavy. We are not there yet but the Blasters CEO alluded to it in a social media message after the game. Kerala left Sahal Abdul Samad on the bench after a few underwhelming performances for both club and country and started the game brighter than the home side. A couple of chances were spurned in the first half and Bengaluru usually do not allow teams more than that. Yet another linesman error cost them a goal in the dying minutes but the team cannot really complain about the end result. 

Odisha FC 0 – ATK 0

     3) Football Returns To Pune

With the Pune franchise moving to Hyderabad, fans in the city have been starved of top-flight action this season. They have received temporary respite with Odisha having to play their first three home fixtures at the Balewadi. The Kalinga Stadium has been undergoing renovation work in view of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year and the project has gotten delayed. Odisha took to the new surroundings well and could have walked away with all three points if a stone-dead penalty had been awarded in the first half. League leaders, ATK, were stymied in their efforts to play on the counter and the Kolkatan side’s three-match winning run was brought to an end. The home side are on a revival of sorts themselves after losing the first two games and Josep Gombau did not look terribly displeased with a point in the end. 

     4) Headline Duo Stopped In Their Tracks

Roy Krishna and David Williams came into this fixture with six goals and two assists between them in three games. They were both well contained by Odisha’s defensive line with Carlos Delgado and Diawandou Diagné impressing at centre-back. ATK were reliant on set-pieces to create their opportunities and even though a couple of chances came their way, Arshdeep Singh’s goal could not be breached. As more teams come to terms with Antonio Habas’ preferred formation, he may have to go back to the drawing board and tweak his tactics a bit. For now however, they sit pretty on top of the table and should head into their home fixture against Mumbai in high spirits. 

Chennaiyin FC 2 – Hyderabad FC 1

     5) A Goal At Long Last For Machans

769 minutes it took. And seven matches of goal drought across two seasons. It nearly became eight too. For 92 minutes, it looked like the gods were not going to side with Chennaiyin yet again.  There were 21 attempts at goal and every single one of them stayed out. Notwithstanding owner Abhishek Bachchan’s rallying cry on television at half-time where he invoked the Machans’ 2015 title triumph from a similarly hopeless situation, the die seemed to have been cast. The team had been floundering for far too long for positives to be taken out of this fixture. And then it all changed, and how. Nerijus Valskis and André Schembri had both been slated for going goalless all season. They left it really, really late but come to the party they finally did. There were four added time minutes between their first goals for the club and suddenly the club was experiencing the rarefied air of being second-from-bottom. John Gregory’s job is safe for now. 

     6) Back To The Drawing Board For Hyderabad

Phil Brown’s men team could finally field five foreigners in their starting eleven. The Englishman had rightly cited the absence of some of his overseas contingent as a big reason for a stunted start to the season, and rightly so. Nestor Gordillo is still a month away from making an appearance, with his appeal against a four-month ban being rejected by an AIFF committee. Bobô was finally available though and looked like a player who had not played in a long time. He was taken off after 65 minutes and with Robin Singh still a pale imitation of the player he once was, the onus, as always, was on Marcelinho to take matters into his own hands. This was not the night where that would happen though, and Hyderabad deserved the defeat that came their way. Any other result would have been cruel on the home team. 

FC Goa 0 – Jamshedpur FC 1

     7) Jahouh Costs Home Side Dear

Ahmed Jahouh is a wonderful player, possibly the best in the league. He is beginning to make a habit of costing his team dear through red cards though, and Sergio Lobera must intervene to make sure that the Moroccan does not gain a reputation. Goa really could have done with him on the pitch while chasing an equaliser against the Red Miners, whom they have not beaten in three games now. Even with ten men, the Gaurs dominated possession but could not find their way past a resolute Jamshedpur backline. Coro’s absence always has a negative impact on the team and Goa were further hamstrung by the bans on Hugo Boumous and Seiminlen Doungel for their part in the fracas at Guwahati. Ultimately, Edu Bedia and Manvir Singh were unable to make a difference up top and with Jahouh now adding himself to the absentee list, Eelco Schattorie will fancy his team’s chances in Kochi.  

     8) Statement Win For Jamshedpur

Antonio Iriondo’s men were not on too many people’s lists of favourites for the title when the season began. With a mix of young Indian talent and experienced foreigners however, they are taking the league by storm and find themselves alongside ATK at the top of the table. If the home draw against champions, Bengaluru, showed that they had the ability to mix it amongst the best, this win was an emphatic statement. Narender Gahlot made his much anticipated ISL debut at left-back with Iriondo reluctant to break the Tiri-Memo centre-back pairing. He looked understandably nervous, especially in the first half with Jackichand Singh and Seriton Fernades targeting him. A much more assured second period performance followed which augurs well for the future. The player who really caught the eye though was the other debutant, Jitendra Singh. The eighteen-year old ran his socks off in the middle of the park and it is a testament to his performance that Piti’s absence was not felt at all. The former Indian Arrows player will be one to keep an eye on this season. 

NorthEast United 2 – Mumbai City FC 2

     9) Triadis Gets Long Overdue Goal

In his second campaign at the Highlanders, Panagiotis Triadis finally had his first goal for the club. He saw very little action last season with other overseas stars receiving top billing but has found minutes under Robert Jarni. He is not a regular starter by any stretch of imagination but completed a game for the first time this season and rewarded his manager with a well-drilled goal. It was a very open game with chances and shots arriving by the bucketful, which would not have pleased both coaches. Kai Heerings, who is serving a two-game suspension, was sorely missed and his replacement Nim Dorjee Tamang did not cover himself in glory with both goals conceded. It was left to talisman, Asamoah Gyan, to ensure a share of the spoils for the home side and he now has a goal in every game he has played at the Indira Gandhi stadium this season. 

     10) Islanders Leaking Goals At The Back

It is ten goals conceded in three games after two clean-sheets to kick off the season for Mumbai. After initially acclimatising themselves nicely following Mato Grgic’s injury in the first game of the season, the Islanders’ all-Indian defence have floundered of late. Souvik Chakrabarti and Sarthak Golui had no business allowing Triadis all the time in the world to pick his spot for the first goal and Gyan had Golui and Pratik Chowdhary in a daze for the second. The good news is that Modou Sougou is back. The Senegalese striker had struck up a very good understanding with Amine Chermiti before he got injured, and the two took off from where they had left off. An away point at Guwahati is always a good result and if Grgic is back for the fixture against ATK, things might shore up at the back too. 

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