Chennaiyin FC 0 – Kerala Blasters 0
1) Machans Miss Chance To Go Top
Much was expected of Chennaiyin after their defeat of Jamshedpur in the opening round of fixtures. They went with an unchanged lineup and started like a house on fire. There were plenty of moments in the first twenty minutes when an obliging Kerala presented opportunities for the Machans to get on the score sheet. None of them were taken and after the notional away side settled, they kept most of the ball as well. The impressive Rafael Crivellaro won himself a penalty late in the game, providing Jacob Sylvestr with a chance to open his account in India. That will have to wait till another day though, as his effort was saved, and Chennaiyin missed their chance to join ATK Mohun Bagan at the summit.
2) Goalkeeper Woes To Haunt Kerala Again?
The goalkeeping position was one of many areas where the Blasters faced trouble last season. Neither Rehenesh Paramba nor Bilal Khan looked fit for purpose to implement Eelco Schattorie’s desired playing style. Kibu Vicuña has similar ideas and two new keepers in Albino Gomes and Prabhsukhan Gill have arrived at the club. After an underwhelming time at Mumbai City FC and Delhi Dynamos, Gomes has been given first opportunity to cement his position between the sticks. The first quarter of this game did not provide encouragement. In an effort to build play with his feet, he almost gifted a couple of goals to Chennaiyin. To his credit, he found his feet soon after and salvaged a point for his side with a decent penalty save. With all the problems up front, the goalkeeping position is an area Vicuña will be hoping he does not have to revisit any time soon.
FC Goa 1 – NorthEast United 1
3) Ferrando Under Pressure Already?
With the legacy of Sergio Lobera to contend with, Juan Ferrando always had a tough task ahead of him. A few of Goa’s first-choice options from last season remain but the core of the team needs to be rebuilt and that will take time. Some will argue that this is exactly what Lobera did very quickly following the disastrous 2016 campaign, thrilling onlookers with high-octane football right from day one. Even though this was a little more than three years ago, the ecosystem is very different right now and patience will be key with the thirty-nine-year-old. Some of the elements are already in place; the Gaurs managed 75% of ball possession in this game. They are struggling to create chances in the box though and the hope is that things will fall in place very quickly. However, losing his rag on the touchline, like Ferrando did multiple times through the night, will not help.
4) Age Does Not Matter At NorthEast United
They already have the youngest ever manager in the Indian Super League. Against Goa, when twenty-year-old Apuia took to the field, they also had the youngest ever captain in the league. He caught everyone’s eye last season in his debut campaign; putting in performances which belied his age in an average side. That form has been carried into this season and his endeavor with and without the ball frustrated the Gaurs throughout the night. The Highlanders ceded possession to Goa but still ended up with more shots on target than their opponent. It was a similar performance to the one they produced against Mumbai. It remains to be seen if they can sustain their intensity over the course of the season, but they are sitting pretty in the playoff places at the moment.
Mumbai City FC 3 – SC East Bengal 0
5) Islanders Click Into Gear
Three games into the season, Mumbai finally showed their class with an emphatic win over East Bengal. They meant business right from the first whistle and shot to the top of the standings, albeit having played a game more than ATK Mohun Bagan. Hugo Boumous finally looked up to speed, playing with the skill and vigour that made him the player of the season last year. He set up all three of Mumbai’s goals and in the process overtook Marcelinho as the player with the most assists (19) in the league’s history. The man usually playing the ball that leads to an assist in a Sergio Lobera side is Ahmed Jahouh though, and the Moroccan had another immense game. His ball forward with the outside of his boot led to the third goal and that play was deserving of a highlights reel by itself. With the likes of Bartholomew Ogbeche warming the bench still, the Islanders can only improve and that is a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
6) Red-And-Gold Brigade Have Major Issues
Robbie Fowler cut a forlorn figure in his post-match interview. He acknowledged the superiority of his opponents and highlighted the issues that blight his squad. Only a few weeks into his job, he would have been aware of them as he took the assignment. SC East Bengal are a new franchise, after all, and they did not have their pick of talent before the season started. In both their games so far, they have played decent football. When the opposing team have better players in almost every position though, more often than not, the result will not be favourable. In Matti Steinmann, they have a very good player, and the German could very well have been at ease in Lobera’s side. One person does not make a team, however, and East Bengal will be active in the January transfer window. Joe Garner will soon arrive in Goa to begin a fourteen-day mandatory quarantine period before joining up with the squad. His addition may not be enough.
Hyderabad FC 1 – Jamshedpur FC 1
7) Nizams Stay Unbeaten
With Joel Chianese and Lluis Sastre picking up injuries against Bengaluru, Hyderabad started this match with only three foreigners in the matchday squad. They made light of their woes and started on the front foot yet again. The Nizams had 58% possession in the first half against a strangely subdued Jamshedpur and should have had the lead just before halftime but Holicharan Narzary hit the post with a curling effort. He had better luck with a similar shot after the restart. Pawan Kumar fumbled the ball onto the path of Aridane Santana and the Spaniard made no mistake with his finish. The Red Miners made their way back into the game after that and manager, Manuel Roca, got himself sent off in the closing moments but Hyderabad would have taken five points from three games at the start of the season.
8) Win Remains Elusive For The Miners
It has been very much a tale of two halves in every game Jamshedpur has played till date. They did not turn up in the first half against Chennaiyin and allowed Odisha back into the game in the second half. They played poor football before the interval with Nerijus Valskis visibly and audibly frustrated by the lack of service up front. Hyderabad’s goal spurred them into action though and Owen Coyle’s men had a lot more of the ball as they chased an equalizer. The pressure told eventually but it still needed a 159 km/hour thunderbolt from an unlikely source to salvage a point. Stephen Eze has been signed to do the business at the other end of the park, but Coyle will be grateful that the Nigerian showed some of his Europa League pedigree at an opportune moment.
ATK Mohun Bagan 1 – Odisha FC 0
9) Krishna Breaks Odisha Hearts
The champions were on the verge of dropping points for the first time this season when Roy Krishna did what Roy Krishna does. A 95th minute header had enough power behind it to beat Kamaljit Singh’s prod and nestled into the back of the net. It had been an even game until then and both teams would probably have settled for a point at the end. The Fijian had other ideas though and his aerial prowess came to the fore yet again. He has got a good leap on him and had threatened a couple of times before outjumping Cole Alexander at the near post. It was not an easy finish by any stretch but the extra bit of quality he possesses was so often the difference last season; and will be this time around as well.
10) Game Strategy Almost Pays Off For The Juggernauts
It is no secret that ATK Mohun Bagan prefer to not have the ball. In the first two game weeks, they attempted the least number of passes (523) of any team in the league, completing the least (318) as well. There were occasions last season when opposition managers allowed ATK to keep the ball instead; to good results. Stuart Baxter dipped into that playbook and his decision almost paid off. Odisha arguably had the best chance of the match; a free header for Jacob Tratt in acres of space which should have been buried. On the balance of play, the Juggernauts probably deserved a draw. The defeat, however, leaves them with only one point in three games. There is a long road ahead for Baxter and his squad.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page