Chennaiyin FC 0 – Bengaluru FC 1
1) Chennaiyin Suffer First Defeat
After winning their first game against Jamshedpur, the Machans have stumbled in their next two. The problems have slowly racked up and Anirudh Thapa’s injury early in the southern derby has thrown up quite a large one. Given the nature of the fixture, Thapa and Ashique Kuruniyan tussled a few times over the opening minutes before the Chennaiyin midfielder had to be substituted in the 16th minute. It was only a coming together between the two India teammates, but the Machans lost an important presence in the park. Once again, they played reasonably well but their main striker is yet to score a goal. Questions are already being raised about Jakub Sylvestr’s transfer and he will have to come good soon. The good news is that no side have a higher percentage of shots on target this season than Chennaiyin. If only some of them start to go in.
2) Luck Sides With The Blues
Bengaluru found their first win of the season following two draws. With players slowly getting back to full fitness, they showed some signs of improved form. Udanta Singh has been a shadow of the player he was for quite some time now and Carles Cuadrat relegated him to the bench after two starts to accommodate Dimas Delgado. Rahul Bheke came in to replace Fran Gonzales as the Blues decided to partner Cleiton Silva with Deshorn Brown up front. The glut of goals did not come and Cuadrat still does not know his preferred front three but there were a few encouraging signs. Sunil Chhetri’s penalty provides the 2018-19 champions with a platform to build from.
NorthEast United 2 – SC East Bengal 0
3) The Highlanders Party Continues
Four matches. Two wins and two draws. And eight points to boot. It has been an impressive start to the season for a side expected to struggle without any star names. They were not as starved of possession as they were against Goa but after Surchandra Singh put the ball into his own net, NorthEast United sat mostly in their own half and sprung breaks on the counter. The strategy provided another goal in the closing minutes as substitutes, Suhair Vadakkepeedika and Rochharzela, combined to put the gloss onto proceedings. The next match against Bengaluru will be a big test, but Gerard Nus’ men have passed difficult assignments with flying colours this season.
4) Pilkington Struggles Epitomise East Bengal
Much was expected of Anthony Pilkington after he decided to join Robbie Fowler’s project in India. The Irishman is in the side to provide goals in addition to the leadership he has been entrusted with. His middling start to the season has contributed to East Bengal’s woes though with the men in red-and-gold yet to find the back of the net in a fixture. Danny Fox’s injury has complicated matters further with Fowler relying heavily on contributions from his limited foreign contingent. The luck is not going their way either. Ashutosh Mehta was extremely lucky not to concede a penalty when he tripped Jacques Maghoma in the box. With the score still at 0-0 at that point, it was the defining moment of the game. A first goal of the season would have provided the entire squad with a much-needed fillip. Alas, it was not to be.
Mumbai City FC 2 – Odisha FC 0
5) Bipin Singh Taking His Chances
Bipin Singh has been around Indian football for a few seasons now. He was one of the few bright sparks in Atlético de Kolkata’s dismal 2017-18 season before moving to Mumbai. Minutes were hard to come by in the last two years with Jorge Costa choosing to use him as an option from the bench. From all early indications, he will play an enhanced role in Sergio Lobera’s project. After playing a decisive hand in getting Mumbai all three points against Goa, he has impressed observers with his tireless running and endeavour in convincing wins against East Bengal and Odisha. In this game, his crossing was on point too and a delicious ball found Rowllin Borges’ head, sealing the points for the Islanders. Under Lobera’s tutelage, Jackichand Singh added goals and assists to his game at Goa. Bipin has the requisite qualities to do the same at Mumbai.
6) Odisha Struggles Continue
Odisha are in the middle of a tough run of fixtures. After playing the champions in the previous round, Stuart Baxter’s men had to face off against the form team in the league; with a matchup against Goa awaiting them next. These are not the games on which the British manager will be judged with a period of consolidation expected following Josep Gombau’s departure. There have been a few positive signs in the last few game weeks and the Juggernauts did have the best of the early chances in this game. Once poor Shubham Sarangi conceded a soft penalty though, Mumbai took control of proceedings. Baxter’s biggest concern at the moment revolves around the deployment of Marcelinho. For a foreign player with the amount of experience he has in the league, the Brazilian has not contributed as much as he should in these initial games.
FC Goa 3 – Kerala Blasters 1
7) Ortiz Showcases His Class
Jorge Ortiz is one half of the duo entrusted with fulfilling the roles Coro and Hugo Boumous played to such devastating effect in seasons past. Igor Angulo has already taken on the goal scoring mantle and Ortiz finally got on the scoreboard as well with a well-taken finish against Kerala. He threatened early with a great hit from distance that rattled the crossbar and as in the first match against Bengaluru, linked up nicely with his countryman. Brandon Fernandes is the player who knits things together in the attacking third though, and it was his brilliant through ball that facilitated Ortiz’s finish. Goa ran out comfortable winners in the end and provided some respite to the manager, Juan Ferrando, who had been under some pressure coming into this fixture.
8) Problems Galore For Vicuña
The Blasters are not in a good place at the moment. Their centre-back pairing of Costa Nhamoinesu and Bakary Koné, while not being spectacular, were at least functioning reasonably well in difficult circumstances. By getting himself needlessly sent off in the closing minutes against Goa, Costa has given his manager a headache he could not afford in the first place. His striker is not scoring goals. The team’s best player will be out with injury for a few months. A fan favourite in Sahal Abdul Samad shows no sign of fulfilling his potential. The list goes on. And on. They are in ninth place at the moment and the sad part is that no one is surprised.
Jamshedpur FC 2 – ATK Mohun Bagan 1
9) Miners Move Up The Table
Owen Coyle and Nerijus Valskis had revenge of sorts after losing a final in March against Antonio López Habas. It was not with Chennaiyin FC, the team both of them were part of last season, but victory will taste sweet, nonetheless. The pleasing aspect for Coyle would be that his side were in control of proceedings for large parts of the game. It was only in the last twenty minutes that the Mariners came to life. Rehenesh Paramba atoned for his mistake against Odisha that cost the team three points with an inspired performance on his return to the starting lineup. Aitor Monroy was immense in the middle of the park and Valskis cannot stop scoring. The results had not gone the way the Miners would have wanted in the opening three games, but a win against the champions should propel them onward and upwards.
10) Champions Strangely Out Of Sorts
ATK Mohun Bagan were subdued for the most part here. It was only after Valskis had his second goal of the game that they pumped men forward. The Machans were clearly rattled and one can only wonder why it took so long for the Mariners to grow into the game. The substitutions helped, in particular, the introduction of Manvir Singh. His header set up a goal for Roy Krishna (clearly offside) in the closing minutes and a blistering drive almost secured an equalizer. It would have been barely deserved and Habas can have no complaints about the result. It was the first time his team had dropped points this season, but they still sit pretty with Mumbai at the top of the table.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page