ATK 1 – Bengaluru FC 0
1) Kolkatan Side Get First Ever Win Against Champions
All the talk going into this fixture was about ATK’s dismal record against Bengaluru. The away side had won all four of their previous fixtures while conceding only one goal in the process. Antonio López Habas’ side were desperate to set that record straight and for once in the past three seasons, had the tools to do so. It has been a long time since the champions have been held at such arms length by any side and ATK dominated the game from start to finish while having only 37% of the ball. The solitary goal was scored by David Williams after some customary tigerish work from Jayesh Rane and an unwanted record was consigned to the dustbin.
2) Chhetri Needs Help Up Top
It is a measure of the high standards that the Blues employ that third place in the table does not seem to be good enough. Carles Cuadrat went into this game trying to match ATK’s three at the back but the move backfired and some of the dithering by Rahul Bheke in the buildup to the home side’s goal had its roots in the unaccustomed position he was playing in. The manager tried to rectify his mistake with Ashique Kuruniyan’s introduction in the second half but another long-standing problem came to the fore yet again. Sunil Chhetri cuts an isolated figure up top and the only other option on the bench in Thongkhosiem Haokip does not cut it at this level. The captain needs help and Cuadrat needs to figure out how he can provide support to his ageing striker.
Chennaiyin FC 3 – FC Goa 4
3) Comeback Falls Short For Machans
For a side that had failed to score in seven fixtures across two seasons, Chennaiyin sure have turned on the tap and have scored thrice two games running. While the goals were enough to beat Kerala last week, they just made up the numbers against Goa. The hosts contributed to what have traditionally been exciting fixtures between these two sides but the travellers always had them at arm’s length. Rafael Crivellaro, the Brazilian who has been at the heart of everything good about this side this season had his first goals of the season but there was little else to feel good about and Lucian Goian looked a liability at the back when faced with opponents with the pace and skill to make a difference. The honeymoon period for Owen Coyle is over and if they do not get a string of good results together soon, he will start feeling the pinch, if not already.
4) Familiar Bugbear Makes Appearance Again
Goa should have coasted to a win here. They were 3-0 up at half-time and in reality, should have had more on the board. They switched off a little bit in the second period and were hit by two quick Chennaiyin goals. Coro settled the nerves with a well-taken finish but instead of closing up shop, the Gaurs kept going for the goals leaving them a bit exposed at the back. Game management is something that this squad had improved on last season but a familiar bugbear has raised its tentacles recently. Thankfully for them, the hosts could only cut the lead to one by full-time but Goa would do well to return to some of the pragmatism that has helped them succeed. They will point to the table which sees them top but playoff football will be a completely different ballgame.
Odisha FC 2 – Jamshedpur FC 1
5) Winning Start At The Kalinga
Stadium renovation work for the U-17 Women’s World Cup next year had delayed Odisha’s home debut but they finally made an appearance in front of their own fans. There were issues with the quality of the turf which should hopefully improve as the season moves forward but 9452 people showed up to see their team move up to sixth in the table. They did not play particularly well and their backline looked shaky all night with all five players picking up cards by the end of the game. Aridane Santana made all the difference with two well taken goals, including a brilliant volley for the winner. He was a menace all night and put his body on the line defensively as well, clearing a goal-bound effort in the dying seconds. With two more games to come at home before they travel again, Josep Gombau will like his team to have bridged the gap with the top-four before they head to Hyderabad.
6) Red Miners In Freefall
Jamshedpur have come unstuck after a brilliant start to the season. After two seasons of heart-break, it had looked like this would be the year that they take the step up into the playoffs. They have not won in more than a month though and while they somehow still manage to hold on to fourth place, it is a false position with Mumbai and NorthEast United having games in hand. They desperately miss their foreign stars and the news of Piti’s departure for Spain to continue treatment would’ve hit the squad hard. The good news is that Sergio Castel is back in training. His presence up top would lift the mood considerably but it is unlikely that a young Indian contingent can replace the quality missing elsewhere on the pitch.
Kerala Blasters 1 – NorthEast United 1
7) Kerala’s Season Almost Over
It seems a long time since the home side beat ATK in the opening game of the season. There was a great element of luck involved in that victory and Kerala have stuttered along since. They are now almost completely out of the running for the playoff spots and the revolution under Eelco Schattorie has failed to materialize. The fans voted with their feet and only 12,168 people turned up to watch another snooze fest with very little quality on display. Mario Arqués was probably the only one in a yellow shirt to have a good game. Parallels can be drawn with last season when Kerala won their first game, again against ATK, and then went fourteen games without a win. It has been nine games now and the way they are playing, that record could be matched or surpassed.
8) Gyan Needs To Step Up
The Highlanders are not setting the world on fire themselves. After a six-game unbeaten start to the season, albeit with four draws, they suffered consecutive home losses against ATK and Bengaluru. Asamoah Gyan had limped off in the ninth minute against ATK and was not available against the defending champions. He looked rusty, having not played for nearly a month and missed a couple of good opportunities that he may have taken in his prime. NorthEast were extremely lucky to be awarded a penalty and the Ghanaian tucked that chance away but he will have to improve on his four goals this season if the Highlanders have title aspirations.
Mumbai City 2 – Hyderabad FC 1
9) Sougou At The Double
Modou Sougou topped the ISL scoring charts for Mumbai last season and was only below Coro overall. He has struggled this year and came into the game with only two assists to his name in eight fixtures. The relief on his face after converting an excellent Diego Carlos’ cross was palpable and once the bogey was off his back, there was no stopping him. Hyderabad were getting close after Sarthak Golui’s red card and a delightful chip over Kamaljit Singh was just what the doctor ordered for Jorge Costa’s side. The win made it three on the bounce for the Islanders and they displaced Jamshedpur in fourth spot.
10) Hyderabad Rooted At The Bottom
The performances of Phil Brown’s men have picked up in recent games but the results have not. Their only win of the campaign has been against fellow strugglers, Kerala, and their intent now must surely be to avoid the wooden spoon. They dominated the ball and created the more clear-cut opportunities but paid for their profligacy. Nestor Gordillo has made a massive difference to this side and Bobô found the net for the third game running, but the odd draw will not make a dent on the table. Only victories will, and those are in short supply at the moment. The silver lining in defeat? They face Kerala next.