Talking Points From Week 7 Of ISL 6

Odisha FC 0 – Bengaluru FC 1

     1) Odisha Flatter To Deceive Yet Again

Josep Gombau’s men have added some much needed steel this season, especially defensively. They do not concede goals at the rate they used to in the past and have not been lacking for effort. They went toe-to-toe against Bengaluru and ran themselves to the ground with four of their players amongst the top five for distance covered in the game. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was man-of-the-match and that suggests that Odisha peppered the goal as well but cold facts show that they ended the game with one win in seven. That is just not enough if the team has aspirations to qualify for the playoffs, which they have not since the league became an eighteen-game affair. Only once in that period has a team achieved that feat with less than nine wins; NorthEast United scraped through last year with just seven to their name. The good looking performances will not suffice anymore. Odisha need to start winning games. 

     2) Champions Masters At Killing The Game For Opposition

To find a team with fewer goals than the seven that Bengaluru have scored this season, one needs to glance down the table at the three outfits propping up the rear. The Blues’ victory took them to the top and as usual, it is their defence that is impenetrable. They had a difficult February earlier this year, but in three seasons of the ISL, they have been masters at stopping the opposition from scoring. They got the goal that they needed and then soaked up pressure the way they do so well and closed out the win. It is still early days, but the signs are ominous for the rest of the league. The champions are hitting their stride and will take some stopping. 

Mumbai City FC 1 – Kerala Blasters 1

     3) Islanders Playing Themselves Out Of Contention 

Mumbai have two losses and four defeats since their opening week win against the same opposition and have quickly slid down the table. Some of their troubles revolved around their leaky defence and while things immediately improved in this fixture with the return of Mato Grgić, an elusive clean-sheet did not materialise. In attack, their opponents played a risky game by maintaining a high line throughout but the Islanders found T.P. Rehenesh in inspired form, both with his hands and while sweeping up through-balls. They did not let heads drop after Kerala scored late and got an equaliser almost immediately but daylight is emerging between them and the top found that gap could further before the end of the gameweek. 

     4) Lack Of Creativity In Central Areas Hurting Blasters

After missing the entirety of the 2018-19 season through injury, Seityasen Singh is back in the ISL.  He replaced an injured Bartholomew Ogbeche in the starting lineup but it would have been unfair to expect a player making his first start in two years to heavily influence proceedings. The onus was on Sahal Abdul Samad and Sergio Cidoncha to add some creative spark but they have been stifled this season and have only a goal and two assists in almost a 1000 minutes of action between them. The Spaniard has played in a deeper position given the injury to Mario Arqués but he has had the opportunity to impact proceedings with the Blasters compressing play further up the pitch. In this game, Kerala resorted to crosses from the flanks and attempted as many as twenty-three of them, with full-back, Jessel Carneiro, getting his first assist in the league. It is not sustainable, however, and the midfielders need to step up to the plate, and quick. 

NorthEast United 0 – ATK 3

     5) Sub-Par Performance Sinks Highlanders

NorthEast United had two-thirds of the ball against ATK but make no mistake, at no stage did this result look in danger. The dependence on Asamoah Gyan was highlighted in last week’s talking points and unfortunately for the home side, he left the field as early as the seventh minute with a recurrence of a thigh injury. Some of the defending has been a shambles recently and nothing changed with Kai Heerings restored to the starting lineup. Both Keith Vaz and Nim Dorjee Tamang have looked shaky at centre-back and the last time the Highlanders kept a clean-sheet, they had Heerings and Mislav Komorski both starting. Robert Jarni has something to think about. He wants the extra foreign player in attack but his defence needs reinforcing. 

     6) ATK Show Counter-Attacking Threat Yet Again

After a goal drought lasting more than a month and three games, David Williams was back in the goals with a well-taken header. He also created Roy Krishna’s first goal on the counter and provided another opportunity for the Fijian which was inexplicably missed. Between the two of them, they had NorthEast United scrambling for cover and José Leudo had one of his poorer games in the middle of the park for the hosts. ATK’s strengths come heavily advertised and one would have expected Jarni to have prepared his side accordingly but whatever the plan was, the Kolkatan side’s deadly duo shredded it to bits. 

Hyderabad FC 0 – FC Goa 1

     7) Home Team Stay Rooted To Bottom

New franchise, Hyderabad, remain rooted to the bottom of the table and from the looks of it may stay there for the foreseeable future. They do not leak goals like they did at the beginning of the season but it is difficult to see where they will get any from themselves. Bobô was a goal-scoring machine at Sydney FC a couple of seasons back but is yet to hit his stride after sitting out the first few matches due to injury. Overly dependent on Marcelinho as always, Hyderabad were easily repelled in attack and while there is a resilient streak about this side, they lack the quality to trouble any opposition consistently at the moment. 

     8) Sana Singh Steps Into Breach Seamlessly

When Mourtada Fall was sent off in the previous fixture, it was Mohamed Ali who came off the bench for his first minutes of the season. Sergio Lobera chose to play another defender for the first time this season in Chinglensana Singh and the youngster more than stepped up to the plate with an assured display alongside Carlos Pena. His performance won him the man-of-the-match award in a game where the attacking players never really came into their own. Goa have missed Coro up top and while Manvir Singh did get his goal off the bench, the link-up play never ignited in the manner it does with the Spaniard on the field. The Gaurs have looked cumbersome in attack in recent games and that isn’t something I thought I would say about this side. 

Jamshedpur FC 1 – Chennaiyin FC 1

     9) Red Miners Need Foreign Stars Back

Indian players in general have stepped up to the plate with several foreign signings across teams on the treatment table. Jamshedpur was the latest team to name fewer than five non-Indian starters in their lineup with Sergio Castel missing following his injury against NorthEast United. Piti is still unavailable and to make matters worse, Noé Acosta hobbled off in the 35th minute. The Red Miners have a few impressive Indian players, with Farukh Choudhary having an outstanding season, but miss their creative hub in Piti and the scorer of half their goals in Castel. Antonio Iriondo will be hoping to have them back sooner than later with a stretch of away games on the horizon. Until Issac Vanmalsawma’s lucky goal in this game, the last time someone not named Castel scored for the home side was back in October. 

     10) Coyle Inherits Gregory’s Bad Luck

After several weeks of speculation, John Gregory paid with his job for Chennaiyin’s poor start to the season. Bad luck dogged the Machans last season and was definitely a factor in their miserable finish at the bottom of the table. It has spilled over into this campaign and new manager, Owen Coyle, is not immune to it. The former Burnley, Bolton and Blackburn boss thought his side would deliver on a rare away win for any team at the Furnace but Farukh Choudhary’s arm deflected a shot from Vanmalsawma into the goal in the 89th minute. The referee and his assistant failed to notice the infringement and the Machans had to settle for a point. The Irishman must have realised the magnitude of the task ahead of him when he took the job but will be hoping that lady luck finally swings his way soon. It is about time his team had some. 

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