FC Goa 0 – Mumbai City FC 1
1) Tlang Mistake Costs Goa Dear
For a good part of this game, even with ten men, the Gaurs were showing their old manager that they weren’t really missing him. They kept possession well and stroked the ball around with a confidence that seemed to elude their opponents. Tiredness was always going to catch up with them though and Redeem Tlang’s inopportune moment of madness in the fortieth minute possibly cost Goa at least a point. Juan Ferrando, surprisingly, left Jorge Ortiz on the bench to accommodate Alberto Noguera in the lineup and this seemed to have a knock-on effect on Igor Angulo. The Spaniard did not quite have the same influence as he did against Bengaluru and by the time the two of them were on the pitch together, the aim was to escape with a draw. When both these players, and Brandon Fernandes, start making the starting line-up regularly, Goa’s fortunes will improve.
2) Islanders Lucky In Securing First Win
NorthEast United burst Mumbai’s bubble a bit in their opener. It was a deflating game for Sergio Lobera’s side for the most part against Goa too. The football that is associated with the highly regarded coach was being played by the other team in a first half where the pass completion stats for Mumbai were shocking. Hugo Boumous, around whom this team is being built, had another average game as Goa won the midfield battle more often than not. Lobera made tactical substitutions as the game wore on, hoping to prey on a tiring opponent, and a moment of luck turned the Islanders’ fortunes around. Bipin Singh, who had just come on found poor Lenny Rodrigues’ hand in the box and Andre Le Fondre tucked in the resultant penalty. Lobera will take the win but he knows that his team will have to improve, and fast.
Kerala Blasters 2 – NorthEast United 2
3) Blasters On The Board With Disappointing Draw
Kerala secured their first point of the season but will rue their second half performance that allowed NorthEast back into the fixture. When Kibu Vicuña’s men walked off the field at half-time, Gary Hooper’s glaring miss, where he put the ball over the bar when it seemed easier to score, seemed an afterthought. They had a commanding 2-0 lead and the Highlanders had not really threatened to get on the scoreboard. All that changed almost immediately as a complacent side were swamped in the second half with NorthEast finishing the game with fourteen shots on goal. The team in yellow were slightly unlucky to concede the equalizer since Idrissa Sylla was offside in the buildup, but they can have no complaints about the final result.
4) Highlanders Have Fire In Their Bellies
NorthEast seem to reflect their young manager on the field. After upsetting the applecart in their opening fixture against Mumbai, they trained their guns on the Blasters. In the first half, they set pressing traps on their opponents, recognizing that Kerala liked to play out from the back. They drew a few errors but did not show the requisite quality to punish any of them. Gerard Nus must have had a few choice words to share at halftime because they looked a side transformed after the interval. Their persistence paid off in the end, and if Kwesi Appiah had not hit the bar with his penalty, the Highlanders could easily have walked away with three points.
SC East Bengal 0 – ATK Mohun Bagan 2
5) Fowler Makes Losing Debut
Robbie Fowler had a good managerial stint at Brisbane Roar. In his inaugural season, he had guided the team to fourth in the table when COVID-19 struck and the A-League was suspended. He chose not to return and the ISL’s newest franchise swooped in and secured his services. He certainly does not have the experience some of his colleagues in the league have but East Bengal seem to be confident that the Liverpool legend will deliver. It was quite a debut. Ninety-nine years after the two sides first met, the Englishman named the side that would compete in the first-ever Kolkata derby in the Indian Super League. The team he put out played their part in an entertaining fixture, but their biggest rivals had league winning pedigree and that showed in the end.
6) Manvir Could Progress Under Habas
Despite a lack of minutes at Goa, Manvir Singh started for India in their World Cup qualifiers against Qatar, Bangladesh and Oman last year. It was a reflection of the confidence that Igor Štimac had in a player who was finding playing time hard to come by in Sergio Lobera’s system. He did make six starts in the league, mostly when Coro was unavailable, but his attributes did not really suit the way Goa liked to play. The move to ATK Mohun Bagan made a lot of sense given how Antonio López Habas likes to set up his team. His goal here was a thing of beauty. His pace and power left Narayan Das for dead on the flanks before Abhishek Ambedkar was negated in the box, and a fine left-foot finish followed. It was still a substitute appearance given the Mariners’ riches upfront, but this could be a big season for the Minerva graduate.
Bengaluru FC 0 – Hyderabad FC 0
7) Lack Of Attacking Threat A Worry For The Blues
Bengaluru have carried their goal-scoring woes from last season into this campaign. Their set-piece prowess helped in the first game, but they looked completely toothless here. The Blues did not have a single shot on target. Carles Cuadrat brought on Dimas Delgado for the ineffectual Kristian Opseth at half-time to inject more urgency into proceedings but a threat never materialized. If anything, it was Hyderabad who were more likely to score. Suresh Wangjam continues to make a name for himself and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a good save of the only attempt on target the whole game, but the Blues had little to take out of this contest except for another point.
8) Young Indian Players Make An Impression
After going an entire season without a clean sheet last time around, the Nizams have two in a row. The defensive renaissance is being led by a very young Indian backline with a sole foreigner in Odei Oneindia Zabala for company. Chinglensana Singh was named man-of-the-match for an assured display alongside the Spaniard. He had struggled for game time at FC Goa in recent seasons and only made two appearances last year. A move to Hyderabad was the best thing that could happen to him and he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. In the second half, there were eight Indian players on the park and except for Holicharan Narzary, none of them were players who enjoyed a high profile. If Hyderabad keep this up, they could provide us with a lot of pleasure this season.
Jamshedpur FC 2 – Odisha FC 2
9) Valskis Brace Not Enough For Win
Nerijus Valskis has continued from right where he left off last season. He won the Golden Boot last year without padding up his stats with a single penalty, which was pretty impressive. He already leads the race this season with a brace in this game, one of which was secured with a spot-kick. The goals were not enough to secure a win, however, with Rehenesh Paramba’s sending off for handling the ball outside his area turning the fixture on its head. To be fair to Odisha, they had already looked the better side in the second half, but the Lithuanian will be disappointed that none of his goals so far have translated into three points. However, if he keeps this rich vein of form going, it will not be too long before they do.
10) Baxter Gets Surprising Substitution Absolutely Right
There was much puzzlement when Stuart Baxter chose to remove Manuel Onwu from the centre of proceedings at the hour-mark. He had looked the most likely source of a goal for Odisha. In came Diego Mauricio, who had looked off the pace against Hyderabad. The Brazilian proved his manager right though with a brilliant cameo that secured a point for the team. After bundling the ball into the net after three attempts following the free-kick awarded for Paramba’s indiscretion, Mauricio scored the goal of the season so far in injury time. He shifted the ball onto his preferred right foot on the edge of the box before unleashing a thunderous effort into the top corner. Jamshedpur’s players slumped to the ground, but it was no more than Baxter’s men deserved for their efforts.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page