FC Goa 5 – Mumbai City FC 2
1) Coro Enjoys Outing Against Favourite Opponent
Goa have scored nine goals in two games since Sergio Lobera was fired and if there is any unrest in the dressing room, it certainly isn’t showing in the performances. In an open game, both teams had their chances but it was the home side that took advantage in the key moments. Coro continued his good form against Mumbai scoring two goals and laying up the ball for Jackichand Singh’s lovely dinked finish. He certainly likes these opponents. He has scored eight goals and provided three assists in games against Mumbai in the ISL and the Islanders must be sick and tired of seeing the Spaniard do so well against them. After leading 3-1 at halftime, the inevitable stumble followed which must be worrying for Clifford Miranda, but the Gaurs do not know of any other way to play.
2) Costa Has No Answers To Goa Problem
Jorge Costa has still not found solutions to his Goa problem. They have now pumped five goals past his team thrice in six matches. Including the four they scored against Mumbai in the reverse fixture, the goals add up to twenty-one over two seasons. And this includes the inconsequential semifinal second-leg last year which the Islanders won 1-0. To say that Goa have his number would be stating the obvious. The worrying aspect of this poor record for him is that he may have to face the music again this season. If the top four remains the way it is at the moment, there is another two-legged semifinal between these two sides on the cards. Only a brave person would bet against another demolition job.
Hyderabad FC 1 – Jamshedpur FC 1
3) Gordillo Finally Comes To The Party
Hyderabad finally led a game at half-time this season. They had managed to score the first goal in a match only twice before, and both were in losing causes against Kerala and Odisha. So, to go with their lead intact at the break was a good omen. They could not build on that, however, and a second win of the season eluded them. On a positive note, it was the man they went through so much pain to acquire in their previous avatar as FC Pune City, Néstor Gordillo, who scored the goal. The former Chennai City FC player, who was suspended for four months for his role in a tapping row, was sorely missed at the beginning of the season. He has shown glimpses of his talent in the second half of the campaign, but it was his goals and assists that propelled Chennai to the I-League title last season and Hyderabad were buying those qualities. The goal may have come late in the season, but with a pre-season behind him, he should be a totally different proposition next year.
4) Miners Battle With Marcelinho
In yet another poor performance bereft of quality, the only talking points for Jamshedpur revolved around individual battles with Marcelinho. In the first half, the Brazilian caught Mobashir Rahman and was rewarded with a whack across his face when the referee was not looking. In the second half, Liston Colaco took the player down and as expected Marcelinho retaliated almost immediately, with poor Aitor Monroy feeling the brunt of his anger. The Jamshedpur players’ running battles with the Brazilian were more interesting than anything the side could conjure on the field until Sumeet Passi got the Miners an ultimately deserved draw in stoppage time. I had mentioned his move to right-back last week. In this game, he started at left-back, but he showed that his striker’s instincts haven’t totally deserted him with a nice glancing header from a free-kick.
Odisha FC 2 – NorthEast United 1
5) Odisha Keep Themselves In Contention
It was a must-win game for Josep Gombau’s men and when they trailed 0-1 at halftime, things looked grim. The manager had to take some risks and he did just that, removing Shubham Sarangi and Vinit Rai and replacing them with two attacking options in Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Daniel Lalhlimpuia. The equaliser arrived almost instantly with Manuel Onwu tucking in nicely from Nandhakumar Sekar’s cross. It was only Sekar’s second assist of the season, but it arrived at the best time possible. With twenty minutes to go and the season on the line, Onwu turned provider and helped the ball along from a set-piece for Martin Guedes to tuck the ball in. Odisha are depending on results going their way before their final game against Kerala, but they have given themselves a chance with this win.
6) Jamil Gets His Chance In The ISL
Khalid Jamil, the ex-India international and manager of I-League sides finally got his chance in the ISL with Robert Jarni’s sacking. It did not result in an overturning of fortunes for the Highlanders though and they remain without a win for more than three months. Federico Gallego’s quickly taken free-kick allowed Martin Cháves to score his first goal in the competition. The Uruguayan has been a disappointment and he hit the net far too late in the season and with nothing at stake. NorthEast played some good football in the first half but wilted under pressure in the second and the hosts deserved their victory. A home game against fellow bottom dwellers, Hyderabad is next, and that could be their chance to end their drought. They were the last team the Highlanders beat in this competition, after all.
Kerala Blasters 2 – Bengaluru FC 1
7) Hosts Beat The Blues For The First Time
Eelco Schattorie claimed before this match that he knew how to get the better of the champions, and that is exactly what his side did. It was Kerala’s first win over their southern neighbours in six attempts and a nice way for the team to sign off in front of their own fans. Even though the visitors took the lead, this was a game that Kerala controlled in one of their best performances of the season. They were indebted once again to the player who has carried them in Bartholomew Ogbeche. He joined Roy Krishna and Coro on top of the scoring leaderboard with his twelfth and thirteenth strikes of the season. Kerala end their league engagements away at Odisha and cannot finish higher than seventh in the table. It remains to be seen if Kerala’s owners will deem that to be acceptable given they started the season as one of the favourites for the title.
8) Midweek Fixture Takes Its Toll Again
Bengaluru looked out of sorts for the second ISL game in a row and again, some blame for that could be attributed to their midweek win against Paro FC in the AFC Cup. That was an exhilarating night for everyone involved with the club as the Blues won 9-1, their biggest ever win in any competition. With this being their fourth game in eleven days, it was a good time for Kerala to play the side and Bengaluru struggled, especially offensively. They only had one shot on target in the whole game and that is a rare occurrence for Carles Cuadrat’s men. That shot did result in a goal though as Suresh Wangjam’s brilliant through ball set up Deshorn Brown for the finish. There was the inevitable miss from Udanta Singh and mistake from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Bengaluru look a bit shaky as they prepare to welcome ATK in their final league fixture before the playoffs beckon. Fourth place looks a possibility as things stand.
ATK 1 – Chennaiyin FC 3
9) Champions League Dream Slips Away For ATK
Antonio López Habas’ men were brought crashing back to earth after four straight wins and Goa are now in pole position to top the league phase. The available prize is a huge one. With the Asian Football Federation’s decision to expand the Champions League to a 40-team affair from the current thirty-two in 2021, India’s league winners now have direct entry into the group stage. No team from the country has played in the competition proper since Salgaocar in 1990, when the competition was called the Asian Club Championship. Perhaps nerves took a toll but this was a disjointed performance from the home side and they can have no complaints about the loss. Their hopes now rest on Jamshedpur beating the Gaurs on Wednesday and then taking three points off Bengaluru at the Kanteerava.
10) Echoes Of 2015 For Chennaiyin
The Machans are dreaming of repeating the miracle from that year. They were bottom of the league in the third week of November, but won four games on the trot to qualify for the playoffs that season. They then went on to win an epic final against Goa to seal their first ISL title before triumphing yet again in 2017-18. There were high hopes of a repeat performance last year when they were down in the dumps but the revival never came and when this season started in a similar manner, the owners were compelled to act. John Gregory was removed from his position and Owen Coyle took his place. The Irishman has won six of his ten games in charge and if his side can beat Mumbai on Friday, they would have sealed a playoff spot with a game to spare. Could the memories of 2015 then possibly drive them to a third title?