Bengaluru FC 2 – FC Goa 1
1) Captain Wins The Day Yet Again
It was a big game and the skipper stepped up to the plate yet again. Both teams defended very well throughout the game and it looked like it would require a set-piece to move the scoreboard. And it did. Yet again, one of the smallest men on the pitch somehow found the space and time to guide a thumping header from a corner. Mohammad Nawaz should really have done better but Bengaluru had the foothold they needed on the game. Goa equalized immediately after but Sunil Chhetri still had time to give a lesson to Indian forwards on how to finish, sealing three points minutes from the end and stopping the Guars from pulling away in the table.
2) High Line Costs Goa Dear?
It is possible that Goa were desperate for a win having taken three points only once in six previous fixtures against Bengaluru. But, in the larger scheme of things, they should probably have closed up shop by the time Chhetri got his winner. They could have maintained a five-point gap over their closest rivals and made their position in the table more secure. At 1-1, did the Gaurs backline have to be that high up the pitch? It allowed Ashique Kuruniyan to slip in a through-ball for Chhetri to chase and Mourtada Fall was not going to win that foot race. Game management was an issue in their previous game against Chennaiyin and questions about the same remain.
Mumbai City FC 0 – ATK 2
3) Islanders Brought Crashing Back To Earth
Mumbai had been on a six-game unbeaten run and came into this fixture having won their last three games. Victory would have allowed them to join the upper echelons of the table in which three pre-season title favourites reside and push forth their own claims. It was not to be however, as ATK took the win having completed only 171 passes in the game and with 36.6% possession. Try as they did, especially in the second half, Mumbai could not find a way beyond Arindam Bhattacharja. There were twenty attempts on goal and the ball hit the post twice but it was one of those nights and the Islanders will have to wait some more before they win four in a row for the first time in their history.
4) Rathi Shows That He Belongs
Pronay Halder and Michael Soosairaj may have taken the headlines with their goals, especially the former with his first in the league, but it was Sumit Rathi who caught the eye yet again. Since making his debut in the second half against Odisha in November, he has not looked back and has since nailed a spot in the starting eleven. His ability to play in a back three and also as a left-back helps the manager and the former India U-19 player has looked the part every time he has stepped onto the field. It was Anas Edathodika that he replaced that night against Odisha and if the assured displays continue, there may be no way back into the eleven for the experienced defender. Salam Ranjan Singh can testify to that.
Kerala Blasters 5 – Hyderabad FC 1
5) Five-One On 5-1-2020
The fact that the scoreline matched the date on which the game was being played was only one of several pleasant surprises for Blasters fans who had turned up. The numbers were down more than a couple of thousand from the previous fixture but the 9856 die-hard fans who made it were treated to Kerala’s best performance in ages. The Blasters had never scored five in a game and it was their biggest margin of victory in the ISL. The opposition was poor but a team can only play what is put in front of them and it would have done a world of good for the confidence of players before a tough game in Kolkata against the table-toppers.
6) Horror Show From Kattimani
Veteran keeper, Laxmikant Kattimani, has not made an ISL appearance in two years and it showed. Phil Brown opted to relieve Kamaljit Singh of his duties after his mistakes cost the side dear in the two previous games but his replacement went a step further and gifted Kerala a couple of goals. His first error turned the match the host’s way after Hyderabad had dominated proceedings for thirty minutes but the second was an inexplicable clanger. Betraying a lack of technique, he put one hand up in the air to thwart Seityasen Singh’s long range effort. The ball deflected off his right palm and into the goal. It was possibly the worst piece of goalkeeping ever seen in the league, and Singh should find himself between the posts again against Chennaiyin.
Odisha FC 2 – Chennaiyin FC 0
7) Pitch Quality Overshadows Another Home Win
The Kalinga Stadium is proving to be a happy hunting ground for Odisha. They have now won both fixtures played at their actual home even though they could do with a better pitch. There have been teething problems since the FIFA-approved venue for the U-17 Women’s World Cup was open for competition and players have found it very hard to move the ball around. With clumps of grass getting pulled out at regular intervals, the surface resembled the surface of the moon by the time the referee blew the final whistle. It was unfortunate that the pitch was the central point of discussion on a night when Josep Gombau’s men achieved their highest placing in the league table for a long time. They deserved their win too with the highlight being a belter of a goal from Vinit Rai. It was his first ISL goal and one he will never forget.
8) Chennaiyin Back In The Dumps
After a string of decent results, the Machans are showing signs of reverting to type. A lack of intensity pervaded through the squad last season and it has not disappeared. The team can show fight, as they have against Hyderabad and Goa in recent games, but do not turn up on far too many occasions. Against Odisha, they were lucky to be given a penalty against the run of play in the 24th minute but Nerijus Valskis inexplicably shanked it over the bar. Once the home team scored soon after, with the pitch doing its part, the shoulders sagged and there was only one team in it. Someone will have to lift this squad up by the scruff of the neck soon. At the moment, Rafael Crivellaro aside, no one is pulling their weight.