Talking Points From Week 18 Of ISL 6

Jamshedpur FC 0 – FC Goa 5 

     1) Miners Sign Off On Disappointing Season

Having just missed out on playoff qualification in the last two seasons, Jamshedpur would probably prefer to exit the tournament this way. After a promising start to the campaign, they have barely threatened since November, picking up just one win in this period. They brought down the curtains on the season with their heaviest ever loss and it would be a surprise if Antonio Iriondo holds on to his job. He seemed to hint at structural issues at the club and given the recruitment this season, it would not be a surprise if this were the case. The difference in quality of the overseas signings in both squads was there for everyone to see and while the team stayed in the game, as they have in many fixtures, disappointment was just round the corner. Game time for young Indian players apart, an underwhelming season all around for the Miners. 

     2) Records Galore For Goan Machine

The Gaurs ended their league campaign in style, putting five without reply in Jamshedpur to set a new record for the biggest away win in the ISL. They did not stop at that. In the process, they also became the first team in the league to win 50 games and score 200 goals. The 46 goals they scored in the league stage is also the most any team has scored in the ISL. These are impressive feats from a team that has consistently delivered some of the best football on our shores and with the victory also clinching a Champions League group stage spot, India have deserving representatives on the elite Asian stage. After two semifinal and two final defeats in five seasons, Goa will now aim to capture the title that has eluded them for so long. 

Mumbai City FC 0 – Chennaiyin FC 1

     3) Nervy Display Knocks Islanders Out

The pressure was building over the last few weeks and Mumbai capitulated at the worst time possible. Chennaiyin’s late season charge for a playoff place would not have escaped their attention but an expectant home crowd would have counted on the victory that would seal their place in the semifinals instead. With so much on the line for both teams, the nerves showed on all the players and it was the hosts who blinked first. Poor Sourav Das was shown the marching orders for a last ditch tackle after Mohammed Rafique gave the ball away early in the second half and there was no coming back from that. Chennaiyin could afford to close shop knowing a draw kept them alive and the City Football Group’s latest addition failed to achieve the short-term target put in front of them. 

     4) Goian Goal Haunts Former Employers

Lucian Goian was Mumbai City’s bedrock for three seasons, especially in 2016, when the Islanders conceded only eight goals in the league phase. They would lose to eventual champions, Atlético De Kolkata, in the semifinals but the Romanian stood out for his leadership and impact on Alexandre Guimarães’ side. His powers have been on the wane in the last couple of years and it was not a surprise when Mumbai allowed him the move to Chennaiyin who were looking for a defensive leader of their own. While he has not had the best campaign possible, he was at the right place at the right time to get the Machans the goal that sent them to the playoffs. Cruelly for Mumbai, it was his first goal in two years. 

NorthEast United 1 – Hyderabad FC 5

     5) Things Get Worse For The Highlanders

Who would have thought that NorthEast United were unbeaten for six games at the start of the season. A defeat to ATK at home in early December triggered a slide and they have not won in eleven games since. To make things worse, they were hammered at home by the side that lay below them at the bottom of the table and had not won in fourteen. Andy Keogh finally got off the mark in NorthEast colours but all the goals in the world would not have helped when the defence was in such a profligate mood. The goalkeeper and those around him had as bad a night as could be possible and every single one of Hyderabad’s goals could be attributed to a bad error in judgement. For all their troubles up front, the numbers of goals being conceded were a silver lining this season, but with ten goals allowed in the past three games, it looks like those at the back have decided to give up as well. 

     6) Big Win At The Wrong Time For Hyderabad

Hyderabad finally had a win to celebrate in their last game of the season and while it was a nice way to finish, not much should be read into the performance. There was absolutely nothing at stake and they were playing opposition who had signed off mentally quite some time back. It is to Javier Gurri Lopez’s credit that his players have not done the same and have plugged away manfully, but problems abound in this side. Marcelinho filled in his boots with two goals but Albert Roca needs to decide if his seven goals over the course of the season were enough to justify a place in his plans next year. There is an argument that the Brazilian needs high quality players around him to sparkle and if that is the case, it will be interesting to see if Hyderabad’s owners splash the cash while keeping him in the roster. This season is over though and the new franchise’s debut ends with a wooden-spoon finish.

Bengaluru FC 2 – ATK 2

     7) Uncharacteristic Blues Let Comfortable Win Slip Away

With Carles Cuadrat making a multitude of changes yet again with a crucial AFC Cup second-leg fixture looming on the horizon, Bengaluru could easily have been rolled over by ATK. Those of the fringes of selection, however, had other ideas and many of them put in impressive performances. Kevaughn Frater had his first goal and it was youngster, Leon Augustine, who provided the assist with a smart cut-back on the byline. Dimas Delgado, the orchestrator of so many goals, had one for himself with a free-kick that gave Bengaluru the lead and at 2-0 in the 86th minute, victory was all but assured. The Blues are masters at sitting on narrow leads, let alone a two-goal buffer, which is why ATK’s late riposte came as a shock to most observers at the Kanteerava. They may now end the season in fourth place if Chennaiyin beat NorthEast United and in some ways, a two-legged tie against Goa may be what they prefer. 

     8) Johnson Returns To Action At Old Hunting Ground

John Johnson has a special place in Bengaluru hearts. Along with Curtis Osano, he became one of the club’s first foreign signings in 2013. The Blues played in the I-League at the time and he became a cult figure at the club where he spent five seasons. He moved to ATK in June 2018 but his team had a horrible campaign even though he did reasonably well. A long-term injury kept him out of the squad this season but he has recovered in time for the title run-in. He made his first appearance on the night and lasted the whole ninety minutes. It was Edu Garcia however, another returnee to familiar surroundings, who stole the show with an amazing run and finish that turned the match around. Antonio Habas had rung in the changes himself and it was a second halftime substitute in Michael Soosairaj who completed the turnaround in the 90th minute. 

Odisha FC 4 – Kerala Blasters 4

     9) Unwanted Penalty Record For Odisha

Penalties have been a bugbear for Odisha all season and they were denied a victory in the closing minutes when they conceded two in the space of ten minutes. In the process of giving away their eighth and ninth spot-kicks, the home team set a new record for the most conceded by a team in a season. With Bartholomew Ogbeche tucking both offerings away, Odisha missed the chance to leapfrog Mumbai in the table and they had to settle for a sixth-placed finish. The result took away from a wondrous display by Manuel Onwu yet again, who scored a hattrick and finished with seven goals in four games for Odisha after his loan move from Bengaluru. As he mentioned in a post-match interview, a change in environment, style of play and newer players around him had helped him regain his confidence. How quickly things can change for a player? Odisha will surely do all they can to hold on to the player next season. 

     10) Underwhelming Season Ends For Blasters

A campaign that promised so much even before a ball had been kicked came to a disappointing end in the Kalinga Stadium. Kerala had supposedly bought very well and were in most pundits’ lists of title favourites. While the other sides being spoken about have lived up to the hype, Eelco Schattorie’s men have flattered to deceive. Various reasons have been attributed to the underwhelming show and there have been merits to some of them, but ultimately a lack of balance put paid to their hopes of challenging. Without opening themselves up, they have struggled to push forward  and the high volume of goals scored at both ends in the second half of the season is testament to that. A 4-4 scoreline in their final game summed up this dilemma to the hilt. 

NorthEast United 2 – Chennaiyin FC 2

     11) The Highlanders Just Cannot Win

The match was there for the taking. Chennaiyin had gotten a player sent off in the 41st minute and had to play an entire half one man down. Owen Coyle had also made it easier for NorthEast United by making nine changes to his starting lineup after sealing qualification for the playoffs in Mumbai. The Highlanders were in no mood to oblige. Leading 2-1 in the 93rd minute, Redeem Tlang missed an easy clearance and the visitors got the ball to Lallianzuala Chhangte on the edge of the box. He made no mistake with a neat finish after cutting the ball onto his left foot. NorthEast remained winless for the fourteenth game in a row and a poor campaign came to a dead halt. 

     12) Machans Confirm Goa Tussle

Chennaiyin eventually settled on a showdown with Goa in the semifinals. If they had won this fixture, they would have ended up playing ATK whom they recently destroyed away from home. However, with form and momentum on their side, it looked like Coyle was content playing whoever came their way. A vastly changed lineup did well to stay in the game after Tondonba Singh conceded a penalty and was sent on his way by the referee. NorthEast kept the ball well and took the initiative and lead with twenty minutes to go but the Machans kept plugging away. The manager made a couple of proactive substitutions late into the game and he was rewarded when one of them in Chhangte got a deserved equaliser against his former side. A loss could have dampened spirits slightly but they will instead now lay wait for the Gaurs in Chennai with fire in their bellies. 

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