Talking Points From Week 12 Of ISL 6

FC Goa 2 – NorthEast United 0

     1) Night Of Milestones At The Fatorda

It was built up to be a special occasion, and it turned out to be one. Goa became the first club in the history of the ISL to play 100 matches. It also turned out to be their 50th home game and the team celebrated these milestones by scoring their 100th goal at the Fatorda. The home team played the most passes by any team this season, totally outplaying the Highlanders in the process. It took some luck and a fair amount of time for Pawan Kumar’s goal to be breached but it always looked like a goal was coming and once it did, Coro sealed the victory with a penalty towards the end of the game. 

     2) Gyan Out For Entire Season

Robert Jarni confirmed on the eve of the game that marquee striker, Asamoah Gyan, would miss the rest of the season with injury. The Ghanaian had not exactly set the world on fire with his performances but was NorthEast United’s top scorer and he was missed. The Highlanders have only nine goals this season and are the only side yet to hit double-digits. Federico Gallego, an inspiring presence in the last campaign, is still finding his way after a long injury spell on the sidelines. He will come good eventually but NorthEast will have to dip into the transfer market and find some goal-scorers. The defence did a great job until Kumar made an embarrassing mistake on the first goal. It is further up the pitch that the team’s problems lie. 

Bengaluru FC 2 – Jamshedpur FC 0

     3) Kuruniyan Lights Up The Kanteerava

Ashique Kuruniyan has had an interesting season at his new club. He has been asked to play a multitude of roles for the team and also had to endure some time on the bench. Udanta Singh was dropped for this fixture and Kuruniyan took his place on the right flank. He put in a performance full of endeavour, running more than anyone else on the night and terrorising the opposition with his pace and physicality. He had the opportunity to add a goal or two as well and this aspect of his game has been highlighted a lot, but Bengaluru will be delighted that the winger has begun to show signs of form. Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado showed once again why they are a cut above most midfielders in this league and helped the champions secure another three points. 

     4) Grande Fails To Fill Castel-Shaped Hole

Jamshedpur have looked to address their problems in attack by bringing in David Grande from the Segunda B division in Spain. A miserly Bengaluru defence away from home was probably the toughest assignment he will face in the league and he found the going hard. One opportunity did fall his way though when Juanan missed a punt upfield. Grande was through on goal and only had Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to beat. The effort was too close to the goalkeeper though and the India international punched the ball away with his right hand. The Spaniard will hopefully come good soon but the Red Miners continue their slide down the table with a third straight loss.  

Hyderabad FC 1 – Chennaiyin FC 3

     5) Franchise Struggling To Gel As A Group

Hyderabad look destined to finish the season at the bottom of the table. Even with key players back from injury, they are struggling to make an impact in games. Even worse, they are making things easier for their opponents by gifting them goals. After the keepers in the last few games, it was the turn of Ashish Rai to play a horrible back-pass straight to Nerijus Valskis in an offside position. He duly set up Rafael Crivellaro for the opener and there was no coming back for the team from the twin cities. There is a wealth of talent in this squad but they do not seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. The season is gone but Phil Brown has to try and coax a few collective performances out of this set of players in their remaining games. 

     6) Valskis Shows His Pedigree Yet Again

After going four games without finding the net at the start of the season, Valskis has seven goals in Chennaiyin’s last seven fixtures. He has three assists to go with them as well and has proven to be just what the doctor ordered after their struggles last year. The quality of goals that he has scored have caught the eye and the two he scored against Hyderabad were brilliant efforts that gave Kamaljit Singh no chance. The Machans lifted themselves to seventh in the table and find themselves only four points behind Mumbai in fourth after eleven rounds of games. If a maddening inconsistency can be dispensed with, Chennaiyin may still find themselves with a shot of making the playoffs. 

Odisha FC 2 – Mumbai City FC 0

     7) Xisco-Aridane Combine Work A Treat

On this form, little would fans attending these games at the Kalinga know about the struggles this franchise have been through. Odisha have played three games at their permanent home and have won them all. More importantly, they find themselves in a playoff spot after a long, long time. It was a battle between fourth and fifth and the incumbent was dispatched in fine fashion. Aridane Santana and Xisco Hernández have done the heavy lifting this season and have twelve goals and four assists between them. They seem to have a telepathic understanding of each other’s movements on the pitch and against Mumbai, set each other up for goals. So keen were they to find the other that Aridane missed a golden opportunity after the first goal, trying to find Xisco when the better option would have been to take a shot himself. As long as the goals and victories keep coming, Odisha fans will not mind the profligacy. 

     8) Mumbai Far From Playing The Guardiola Way

On the day an interview with the managing director of global football at the City Football Group made an appearance in the English media, Mumbai showed how far they are from making his words ring true. Mumbai are, of course, CFG’s latest acquisition but the way they play is far removed from the tenets that guide the Manchester City manager. Brian Marwood highlighted how all eight clubs within the City fold play the same style as Guardiola’s team but having just acquired a stake in Mumbai, it could be some time before visible changes will be seen in the way the team play. In Ange Postecoglou at Yokohama, they have a manager whose philosophy aligned in some way with Pep before he took the job. Jorge Costa has not shown in his two seasons at Mumbai that his does. 

ATK 0 – Kerala Blasters 1

     9) Home Team Miss David Williams

Roy Krishna might be the top goal-scorer but the importance of David Williams to ATK’s attacking play was highlighted in his absence. Krishna and Williams have an understanding forged during their time at Wellington Phoenix and there were times during this game that the Fijian looked lost without his partner. There was an instinctive ball that he played to the back post in the first half, only to realise that no one was making the run that Williams does all the time. Balwant Singh was a puzzling pick to partner Krishna and failed to make any impact. Jobby Justin replaced him just before Kerala scored but the visitors wisely disrupted the flow of the game thereafter and he could not get into his groove. With all efforts to score nullified, Kerala walked away from the Salt Lake stadium undefeated for the fourth season running. 

     10) Kerala Stay In Contention 

Two weeks back, the Blasters looked down and out. They had not won in nine games and the gap on the top four seemed too much to make up. An uptick in form coinciding with a slump from Mumbai means that Kerala now move up to sixth in the table. The turn of events mean that every team with the exception of Hyderabad still hopes to seal a playoff spot. Kerala won two games on the bounce for the first time in two years and were well worth their victory. They were in no way flamboyant but ground out the win with disciplined performances right through the side. No player epitomised this more than Halicharan Narzary and he thoroughly deserved to score the goal that separated the sides. 

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