Odisha FC 2 – FC Goa 4
1) Redemption For Onwu
Manuel Onwu had a horrid time at Bengaluru in the first half of the season. He has already admitted to it in an interview and a move away to another franchise came at the best possible time for the Spanish striker. Odisha were dealt a blow in their previous game with the aggravation of an existing injury ruling top scorer, Aridane Santana, out of the competition. The opponents on that night were incidentally enough, Bengaluru, and Josep Gombau has taken on the striker who warmed the bench for the hosts. It paid off handsomely and Onwu scored with two well-taken headers to hand Goa a scare. It should really have been a hat-trick, with the referee’s assistant ruling a perfectly valid goal out for offside. With the race for fourth spot heating up, the Spaniard now has the opportunity to turn his season around spectacularly.
2) Sweet Fifty For Coro
The most lethal striker to have plied his trade in the ISL finally got to his fiftieth goal in Indian competition. For most of the evening, he had cut a peripheral figure and the most action he found was by lying on the turf for extended periods in the second half. His antics certainly disrupted Odisha’s rhythm after they had cut the lead down to just one. In the 90th minute, he went one step further and put the game beyond the hosts. A cutback deflected off Narayan Das and found its way to him. Even if the ball was bobbling up a bit, there was no way he was going to miss from five yards out. Fifty goals and nineteen assists in fifty-nine games. It is quite some record and he could leave the chasing pack well behind by the time he finishes in India.
Bengaluru FC 1 – Hyderabad FC 0
3) Set-Pieces Keep Delivering For The Blues
Bengaluru have only scored nineteen goals this season but their defensive solidity has held them in good stead as usual. If someone can find a way to stop their set-pieces from delivering, they could be in trouble. An astounding 63% of their goals have come from set-pieces. Dimas Delgado has a sweet right foot on him and he keeps whipping in great balls from corners and free-kicks. No one has gotten hold of one of them like Nishu Kumar did though and his brilliantly taken effort from the edge of the box decided this game. There was also an entertaining twenty-six minute cameo from new signing, Nili, who showed flashes of talent after coming on for Deshorn Brown. In the end, Bengaluru were also grateful for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s efforts in goal after having looked shaky recently. He saved a penalty and then got a strong hand on a point-blank effort in the dying seconds to ensure that the Blues climb upto second again.
4) Colaco Gets His Chance
Liston Colaco is highly spoken about in Goan football circles. After making a name fo himself at Salgaocar, he has been on FC Goa’s books for the past three seasons. He has only gotten fifty-two minutes of football though, with game-time hard to come by in a team that has the likes of Coro, Hugo Boumous and Manvir Singh in the forward positions. He has smartly decided to spend the rest of the season at a club which does not have much to play for and hence, should be willing to give him minutes on the pitch. He came on towards the end of the game and almost found the equaliser with a move he started and almost finished. The one-two with Adil Khan did not pay off but it promised more than anything else Hyderabad tried on the night. We will hopefully be seeing this young player a lot more in the three remaining games.
Mumbai City FC 1 – NorthEast United 0
5) Carlos Helps Islanders Leapfrog Odisha
Diego Carlos has spent three years in India now and still conveys the air of a man who can easily give more than he is at the moment, but doesn’t. There is a very talented player in there when he chooses to come out to play. This was one of those nights and the Brazilian left an indelible mark on the game, tormenting Reagan Singh on the left flank and getting the winner on the stroke of halftime. Late on in the game, he got Singh to put his foot in twice in the space of three minutes after leaving him for dead. The full-back got two yellows and an early shower for his trouble. He ended up with two goals and one assist in both his seasons at Pune and he’s now matched that at Mumbai. With the playoff race hotting up, now would be a good time for him to surpass the low benchmark he has set for himself previously.
6) Highlanders On Repeat Mode
What does one write every week about a team that has become so predictable in what they do and don’t do? NorthEast defended gamely for the umpteenth time and they failed to score for the umpteenth time. Young Provat Lakra got his first start of the season and there were more minutes for Ninthoinganba Meetei and Swedish import, Simon Lundevall, but this team must be the easiest team in the league to defend against at the moment. If Mumbai had put mannequins in that backline, they would still have probably fancied their chances. There have been teething issues that have plagued this franchise for a long time now, and it was only last season’s surprise run into the playoffs, that put them on the back-burner. With the Highlander Brigade penning yet another open letter to the club management earlier this week, matters are coming to a head yet again.
Kerala Blasters 3 – Chennaiyin FC 6
7) Hat-Trick In Losing Cause For Ogbeche
Bartholomew Ogbeche scored the first hat-trick of this season but somehow ended up on the losing side. The hosts did not deserve to take anything out of this contest and it was only the Nigerian’s brilliance that brought a modicum of respectability to the scoreline. Once goalkeeper, Rehenesh Paramba, passed the ball straight at Rafael Crivellaro in an attempt to play out from the back, Kerala were out of the contest. As has been the case many times this season, the Blasters looked unbalanced and as they chased wins in recent games, it has become increasingly easier for teams to play through them. Twelve goals have been scored against them in the last three games alone. The clock ticks down on yet another disappointing campaign for the team in yellow.
8) Chennaiyin Revival Gathers Steam
The Machans have won their last four games on the bounce and have scored an incredible fifteen goals in the process. It just goes to show what an injection of confidence can do for a side and Chennaiyin are unrecognisable from the shambles they were at the beginning of the season. Nerijus Valskis has led the revival and he is the form striker in the league. With eleven goals, he leads the scorers list and with others around him chipping in as well, it is all going swimmingly well at the moment. Unusually, there were three braces for the visitors and as a manager, Owen Coyle would have been pleased to see the goals being shared.Their next three games will decide if they can make the playoffs though. They will do well to take points off Bengaluru and ATK but the away fixture at the Mumbai Football Arena on the 21st of February has all the hallmarks of a shoot-out for fourth.
Jamshedpur FC 0 – ATK 3
9) Miners Shoot Themselves In The Foot
A banner in the stadium did a good job of capturing the mood among Jamshedpur’s fans at the start of the game. It read, ‘No loss, no draw, just win’, or something to that effect. With the team having garnered three points only four times in thirteen games, one could understand where that wish originated from. A minute and few seconds in, debutant Sandip Mandi passed a poor ball back to Memo under pressure from ATK’s attackers. That invited Roy Krishna to pounce and he did just that. 1-0 to ATK and the banner could be kept aside for the night. In the second half, Jitendra Singh got sent off for a second yellow card and a difficult job became impossible. Back to the drawing board for the home team and the recruitment strategy might be a good place to start for the owners.
10) Garcia Provides ATK With Selection Dilemma
Edu Garcia first made an appearance in Indian football with Bengaluru and immediately made his mark. If the club had not sold him to Zhejiang Luchéng for an Indian transfer record $150,000 towards the end of the 2017-18 season, the Blues would probably have won the title that year. He joined ATK in the winter break last season and immediately shone some light on a miserable campaign. His quality compelled ATK to keep him but he has not played the amount of minutes he would have liked, with injury striking at inopportune times. He showed his pedigree against Jamshedpur with a brilliant goal and assist, providing Antonio López Habas with a pleasant problem. David Williams is back from injury and with every single one of the team’s foreigners playing at a high level, who does he leave out?