Odisha FC 3 – Hyderabad FC 2
1) Xisco Adds Goals To His Game
The Spaniard scored just the once for Bengaluru in their title winning campaign last year. Even though he had an impressive season, that could be one reason why he was sold to Odisha with Raphael Augusto taking his place in the champion’s starting lineup. It must please Xisco no end then that he has four goals in eight games for his new team with his replacement at Bengaluru yet to get off the mark. Josep Gombau has gotten the best out of his playmaker and has encouraged him to get into the box at every opportunity. After whipping in an assist for Carlos Delgado’s opener, he slid in to direct Jerry Mawihmingthanga’s cross in to make it 2-0. Hyderabad briefly threatened after Vinit Rai’s sending-off in the 64th minute but the hosts held on for their first win since October.
2) Change In Formation Makes No Difference For Hyderabad
Phil Brown has moved away from his preferred 3-4-1-2 formation starting with the home game against Bengaluru towards the end of November but it has made no difference to their fortunes. They were lucky to get a point against the champions and after losing to Goa, Brown decided to go with a 4-3-3 with star player, Marcelinho, suspended after having picked up four yellow cards. Adil Khan was reinstated in midfield and Nikhil Poojari joined Bobô and Robin Singh in attack. It worked for about thirty minutes with the Brazilian finally showing signs of life in the league but once Odisha got the opener, the result was never in doubt and a wooden-spoon finish beckons for the new franchise.
Kerala Blasters 2 – Jamshedpur FC 2
3) Blasters Draw Yet Again
Eelco Schattorie took to Twitter to provide his analysis of the game and while he made some pertinent points, the need to shift to a 3-6-1 to salvage a point highlights an inability to break down defences using conventional methods. Kerala have time and again needed to go helter-skelter in their search for goals and it leaves them vulnerable in central and defensive areas. The home side have been hit by critical injuries causing disruption through pre-season preparations and beyond, but at some point a cutting edge needs to make an appearance in attack. Mario Arques’ addition will definitely help as will Bouli’s recent form, but the gap from the top-four is widening even further and the manager must be feeling the pressure.
4) Goal-Scoring Return For Vineeth
Piti made a much needed return to Jamshedpur starting line-up and was immediately asked to fill in up top in the continued absence of Sergio Castel. It is not his preferred position and it showed as the Red Miners struggled to create a lot with Farukh Choudhary and Sumeet Passi on either side of the Spaniard. Jamshedpur were slightly lucky to get the penalty that helped them go one up and even luckier not to concede another not soon after. C.K. Vineeth came on for the under-cooked Piti around the hour-mark and immediately scored his first goal in Jamshedpur colours against his former side. His sheepish celebrations showed the respect he had for the legions of fans he has in his home state but his intervention was not enough to secure all three points in the end.
FC Goa 2 – ATK 1
5) Coro Returns As Gaurs Go Top
The Gaurs have missed their talismanic striker and have managed just one win in three games that he has not been available for. He was back for an important fixture against the table-toppers, ATK, and unsurprisingly had the final say in an often ill-tempered fixture. Goa took the lead through an increasingly consistent Mourtada Fall and dominated proceedings, having two-thirds of the ball. They did not allow the ATK equaliser to faze them and took the lead back almost immediately. Coro took his goal in the poacher’s manner that Manvir Singh or Hugo Boumous have struggled to replicate and replaced their opponent at the head of the table. The vociferous celebrations of Sergio Lobera and his staff at the final whistle showed how much this win meant to the side and the title battle is entering an interesting phase where markers are being set.
6) Habas’ Fatorda Record Comes A Cropper
Antonio López Habas has a very good record against Goa. In his first two seasons with ATK in 2014 and 2015, he did not lose a game against them in six matches. In 2016, His Pune side lost at home against the Gaurs, but won 2-1 at the Fatorda. He must have carried a lot of confidence with him entering this fixture but this home side is a totally different proposition under Lobera. In addition to keeping the ball, they were quick to the tackle as well conceding eleven fouls as they stifled an ATK side that came into this game after hammering the Highlanders in their own den. Jobby Justin got his first ISL goal after a ball fell kindly for him off the goalkeeper but ATK were never really at the races on the day. Habas had his first loss in Goa at the fifth time of asking.
Bengaluru FC 2 – Mumbai City FC 3
7) Blues Lose Proud Home Record
The Kanteerava Stadium has been a fortress for Bengaluru over the years and it had been seventeen games since they had lost a league fixture at the ground. That would change though as the hosts put in an uncharacteristically poor performance all round to lose against a side that had troubled them no end last season as well. The Blues managed to score two goals but there was an element of fortune to both as Mato Grgić guided the ball into his own net at a corner and Sunil Chhetri converted a penalty given on flimsy grounds. Bengaluru’s first loss of the season comes as good news for the rest of the league but Carles Cuadrat has some thinking to do before his side take the field again on Wednesday against NorthEast United.
8) Bose Returns To Torment Former Team
Subhasish Bose’s absence from the 2017-18 final due to suspension contributed hugely towards Bengaluru’s loss against Chennaiyin and the left-back returned to his old stomping ground to torment the hosts. He found himself at the far post to thump a header past Gurpreet Singh to send Mumbai on their way and it set the tone for the rest of the night. Mumbai got stuck in and made it uncomfortable for the Blues, who found it difficult to play in the manner they are accustomed to. When Chhetri levelled the score in the 89th minute, it felt undeserved and it was only fair that Rowlinn Borges had time to turn in another header from, you guessed it, Subhasish Bose to win it for the away side.