Talking Points From Week 6 Of ISL 6

Chennaiyin FC 2 – Odisha FC 2

     1) Do The Machans Finally Have A Striker?

Chennaiyin have four goals in seventy-five minutes of football. Who would have thought? Three nights on from his starring turn against Hyderabad, Nerijus Valskis scored two goals in the second half to give his team a share of the spoils against Odisha. The second was a real beauty as he rose well at a corner and craned his neck to guide the ball into the net. He had another header to win the game in injury time yet again and score the first hat-trick of this ISL season, but the ball went slightly wide of the post. In an open game, both teams had their chances and a draw was the fair result in the end. John Gregory would have loved a win but must be delighted that his Lithuanian gamble is finally coming good. 

     2) Odisha Score The Late Goal For Once

This team has made a habit of conceding late in the last couple of seasons. They began this campaign by being at the receiving end of two such goals against Jamshedpur and NorthEast United, converting valuable away draws into defeats. For once, they were the ones breaking hearts as Aridane finished a fine team move with aplomb. Odisha played well once again and the partnership between Xisco and Aridane is blossoming. Their movement and interplay has allowed the likes of Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Nandhakumar Sekar to shine. Josep Gombau must be slightly concerned that it has been three draws in a row now but must be glad that there is some steel to the easy-on-the-eye football these days. 

Hyderabad FC 1 – Bengaluru FC 1

     3) Robin Delivers Off The Bench

Robin Singh’s performances this season have been so ordinary that he was relegated to the bench after starting all the previous games he was available for. Marcelinho was played in a more advanced position alongside Bobô but it did not have the desired effect as the home team was played off the park by the defending champions. Even when Phil Brown was chasing the game, he first sent on Giles Barnes who was making his first appearance in more than a month. When the former India striker eventually took the field with a few minutes remaining though, he made a nuisance of himself, winning the initial header and finishing off a move that stunned his previous employers. 

     4) Blues Pay For Missed Opportunities

For a large portion of this game, it looked like a matchup between a team of first team regulars and their reserve side. Bengaluru were utterly dominant and had chances every few minutes to put this game to bed after Sunil Chhetri took one almost immediately after kickoff. They had almost two-thirds of the ball and twenty-three shots on goal. With every passing opportunity squandered, the possibility of a sucker-punch to the gut loomed even larger and so it proved in the end. Carles Cuadrat would have expected to leave Hyderabad with a two-point cushion at the top of the table. Instead, he had to be content with a three-way tie, having played a game more than those around and his team could drop to fourth by the end of the gameweek.  

ATK 2 – Mumbai City FC 2

     5) Soosairaj Finally Adds End Product

Michael Soosairaj made a name for himself last season at Jamshedpur with eye-catching performances that won him a place in the national team. This season, Antonio López Habas has converted the winger into a wing-back and he has continued to impress in the league’s top-scoring team. The offensive threat had not translated into goals however and he finally came to the party with a great finish after being played in smartly by Edu Garcia. With opposition teams focussing their efforts on quietening Roy Krishna and David Williams, he will have even more room to operate in on the left flank. Goals and assists are what counts though and if he can produce more of those, Ashique Kuruniyan will have genuine competition for his starting place when the next India squad gets announced. 

     6) Islanders Fail To Cap Pre-Match News With Win

City Football Group’s announcement of a 65% stake acquisition in the Mumbai club was music to the ears of ISL stakeholders. It was validation of the effort put in over the years and the league can only benefit from the investment. The Islanders would have wanted desperately to win and cap off what had been a good week for the club. In the first half, it looked anything like it. They were unusually subdued and probably received harsh words from Jorge Costa during the break because they came flying off the blocks in the second. A ninety-third minute goal from Serge Kevyn looked to have won the game only for Sarthak Golui to inexplicably head a long hopeful ball into the path of Krishna with only a few seconds remaining. The Fijian striker was never going to miss. 

Kerala Blasters 2 – FC Goa 2

     7) Blasters In Big Trouble

Kerala were supposed to take the league by storm this season and provide respite to their long-suffering fans. That has not happened and they find themselves in the bottom half of the table; something they have been accustomed to for a while now. They have had injuries to key players from pre-season onwards but that has been the case for other sides as well and it is disconcerting that they have not been able to take advantage of a vociferous home crowd at Kochi. Four of their six matches to date have been at home and the only win came in the first game of the season, a result they were lucky to get. In addition to an ineffectual Sahal Abdul Samad, there are many other teething concerns for Eelco Schattorie to address. He will have to address them very soon or Kerala could find themselves out of playoff running as early as the end of this month. 

     8) Ten-Men Goa Take Home Deserved Point

The Gaurs are another team who have been pegged back by injuries. To make matters worse, their players are also finding ways to get sent off and it was the big centre-back, Mourtada Fall, who saw red in this game. It left the side with only two foreign players on the pitch and Messi Bouli scored immediately after to put the home side 2-1 ahead at the hour mark. It is telling that Sergio Lobera chose to take Edu Bedia off at this stage, trusting Carlos Peña and nine Indian players on the pitch to get the job done. Which they did with an inspired effort, dominating possession with one player fewer than their opposition. Lenny Rodrigues’ 92nd minute equaliser may have broken Manjappada hearts but Goa deserved to take something home. 

Jamshedpur FC 1 – NorthEast United 1

     9) Castel Injury A Blow For Red Miners

Sergio Castel, the Atletico Madrid ‘B’ team player on loan at Jamshedpur, has been a revelation this season. He currently leads the goal scoring charts in the ISL and has led the line brilliantly for his team. Full of running and endeavour, he has set the tone for the rest of the side and the Red Miners have been a difficult team to play through under Antonio Iriondo. It is his end product though that has made the difference and he has scored in every game so far, save the goalless draw against Bengaluru. This is why the reckless tackle by Reagan Singh that forced him off the field towards the end of the game will come as a crushing blow to a side chasing a first-ever playoff spot. If he is out for a substantial period, a slide down the table could be inevitable. 

     10) Late Goal Sets New ISL Record

A week on from his first-ever ISL goal, Panagiotis Triadis got yet another one and in the process set a new record for the most consecutive draws in the league. There were five of them in the inaugural season but since Jamshedpur won in Goa, no team has been able to secure all three points this year. The Highlanders were extremely poor in the first half and were pegged back into their own half. They did improve in the second but a goal was not in the offing until Asamoah Gyan got the better of Tiri for the first time in the night and headed a ball into the path of an onrushing Triadis. While Robert Jarni will be thrilled to take away a rare point from the Furnace, he must be worried about his team’s dependence on Gyan for goals. The Ghanaian striker showed signs of tiredness in the fixture and with games coming thick and fast over the next few weeks, others will have to step up to the plate.  

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