Hyderabad FC 1 – Odisha FC 2
1) New Manager, Same Result For Hyderabad
Phil Brown found himself without a job after the loss to Chennaiyin and assistant coach, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, found himself in the hot seat. Albert Roca will take over on a two-year contract from the start of next season and chose to watch this one from the sidelines, which in the circumstances seems to be the wise choice. Marcelinho put the home team ahead in the first minute but familiar failings came back to haunt Hyderabad yet again as they lost for the tenth time this season. They have only played thirteen games. There are ingredients in this squad for Roca, who worked wonders at Bengaluru FC, to work with but it looks like the owners have given up on this campaign and started planning for the next.
2) Odisha Address Poor Away Form
Josep Gombau’s men have been dreadful away from home this season. Coming into this fixture, they had only won once in six away games while conceding eleven goals in the process. The recent form was good though and having won all three preceding games at the Kalinga Stadium, they arrived in good spirits. They conceded very early but hit back twice through Aridane Santana and somehow managed to hold on till the end. Between both teams, there were thirty attempts on goal in a match that provided tremendous value to spectators and Gombau would have been relieved to walk away with three points. Given that Odisha’s next three fixtures are against the teams above them at the top of the table, they needed these points to consolidate their position.
Chennaiyin FC 2 – NorthEast United 0
3) Best Goal Ever In The ISL?
Rafael Crivellaro has provided the silver lining in some poor Chennaiyin performances this season and has been central to everything good that has been created. He went a step further against the Highlanders and delivered a goal of the highest quality. It would have been celebrated in any league around the world. Picking the ball up on the halfway line, he noticed Subhasish Roy Chowdhury off his line in the NorthEast goal. He let loose with a flat and hard effort which dipped in just below the crossbar and beyond the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper. So good was the goal that the rest of the game saw umpteen long-rangers from players of both sides, obviously inspired by what they had just witnessed.
4) Cháves Disappoints Yet Again
Martin Cháves has epitomised NorthEast United’s recruitment this season. Widely lauded for having gotten it right last year, especially with Bartholomew Ogbeche and Federico Gallego, none of the foreign signings brought in this year have impressed. Kai Heerings has been a tidy presence at centre-back at times but the Highlanders desperately need goals in this side. Much was expected from the Uruguayan winger, Cháves, but he is yet to score in almost a thousand minutes of football. Andy Keogh came in as a replacement for the injured Asamoah Gyan and showed some promise but the duo, along with Gallego, will have to start converting the chances that come their way very soon. NorthEast United may have a couple of games in hand but they have left themselves with a lot to do in the remaining fixtures.
Mumbai City FC 2 – Bengaluru FC 0
5) Costa’s Hold Over Bengaluru Continues
Jorge Costa must wonder what the fuss is all about. While every other team in the league struggles with the Blues conundrum, he has merrily gone about dishing defeats to the defending champions. After starting off with a draw last season which could easily have been a win as well, Mumbai have trounced their heavily fancied rival thrice since. The long ball over the defence was a tactic that worked very well last year and it contributed yet again to an Islanders goal. Modou Sougou and company have obviously got into some of the Bengaluru players’ heads, as was evident with both goals, and their manager must be hoping that the streak lasts for a long time to come.
6) Gurpreet Questions Arise Yet Again
This was as poor a performance as India’s number one has had in a long, long time. He had no business going for the long ball that led to Mumbai’s opener and Sougou comfortably got there ahead of him on the edge of the box. He then followed that up with doozy decision-making right through the game and eyebrows will be raised yet again. Gurpreet has consistently made errors on the high ball, both for club and country, over the past two years and while he does not have a worthy challenger at Bengaluru, it might be time for Igor Štimac to consider the man who lined up for the hosts on the night. Amrinder Singh has been waiting a long time for an opportunity to make a case for himself.
ATK 2 – FC Goa 0
7) Krishna Torments Goa Defence
This was an opportunity for ATK to go top of the table and they took it with both hands. They conceded possession as usual and the numbers were similar to the reverse fixture at the Fartoda but there was more purpose to their play on this occasion and they deservedly came up on top. The victory was made possible by Roy Krishna, who had seemed lost without David Williams against Kerala. Here, he had more support up top, but both goals were created solely by himself and with the same piece of trickery. He sold Goa’s defence the dummy by threatening to come inside on the byline before going outside and whipping the ball in. Pritam Kotal and Jayesh Rane took their opportunities gratefully. Rane should really have made it three with the same play minutes before his goal but somehow missed from two yards with the whole goal at his mercy. It did not matter however, and the hosts have put themselves in a very strong position.
8) Goa’s Poor Recent Away Form Continues
The Gaurs had not lost away from home until early January. They had played five matches in unfamiliar environs and taken eleven points from those games. They came a cropper at the Kanteerava as they normally do at that stadium and have now continued their average record in Kolkata. The early season form shown by the likes of Manvir Singh has tapered off and there is an over-reliance on Coro and Hugo Boumous for goals. They deliver more often than not but the Indian players in advanced positions need to start coming to the party if Goa are serious about a title challenge. The Spaniard and the Frenchman were easily stymied at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan and they conceded the head-to-head record which could make a difference come the end of the season.
Jamshedpur FC 3 – Kerala Blasters 2
9) Win At Long Last For Red Miners
Jamshedpur finally have a win to celebrate. They had not won in the league since the 26th of November and until Sergio Castel came on, it looked like that run would be extended. It was not the greatest of games which reflected where both these teams are at this moment. There was a brilliant side-footed effort from Noé Acosta that brought the Miners back into the game after Messi Bouli’s early goal but the match really turned after Bartholomew Ogbeche put the Blasters ahead in the second half. Castel’s goals have been missed and his introduction immediately turned the game around. He tucked in an equalising penalty and it was his presence that forced Ogbeche to turn the ball into the net in the dying moments. They jumped two places in the table and with a game in hand on the teams above them, Antonio Iriondo will hope his team can kick on.
10) Everything That Could Go Wrong……
When Bouli scored early, it looked like the stars may finally align and provide the franchise with a third successive win for the FIRST time in history. Let that sink in. In six seasons, a club of this magnitude (at least in the size of their fanbase) have not been able to string three victories together. The goal was a red herring though and things got pear-shaped fairly quickly. Abdul Hakku inexplicably picked up a second yellow for a dumb challenge. Bouli handled the ball in the box while defending a corner. And Ogbeche, often the first line of defence when his main job is at the other end, somehow managed to align his left leg all wrong as a cross came in. Eelco Schattorie fumed at the officials on the touchline, but this time, he did not have a case.