Bengaluru FC 2 – NorthEast United 2
1) Blues Improving With Every Game
Despite all the talk of Carles Cuadrat being worried about his team’s performances, Bengaluru are still unbeaten in the league. It is a measure of the standards that this team have maintained over the years that even draws feel like defeats to many within the club. This game was an exception. In what was probably the best encounter of the season so far, the Blues showed signs of finally clicking into gear. They did not do enough to deserve the win but found ways to play through the NorthEast press and create problems for their backline. Yes, there is still a heavy dependence on set-plays. Until Udanta Singh scored their second, every single goal this season had come from a dead ball situation. If Cuadrat looks at that stat positively though, he will realize that it is only a matter of time before they start scoring from open play. And that is a terrifying prospect for the rest of the league.
2) The Highlanders Are Not Going Anywhere
This team mean business. They may have the most inexperienced squad going around, but Gerard Nus have them all singing from the same hymn sheet. Even without Federico Gallego; the player who was expected to carry them through the season, they have stood up to be counted in every game. Like many others in the squad, Suhair Vadakkepeedika and Rochharzela have come in from the I-League and in their first starts of the season, combined yet again to put NorthEast in the lead. Gurmeet Singh could possibly have done better with both of Bengaluru’s goals but had an outstanding game otherwise. There are no real weak links to this team at the moment and they will rightly expect to battle it out for the playoff places, come the end of the season.
Mumbai City FC 2 – Chennaiyin FC 1
3) Islanders Dig Deep To Go Top
That little extra bit of quality showed in the end for Mumbai as they won four consecutive games for the first time in their history. Sergio Lobera’s playing revolution at a historically mid-table club is taking shape and the Islanders look the team to beat this season. The minders at the City Football Group must be happy that their investment is bearing early fruit. Lobera, meanwhile, must be happy that his side displayed a resilience to go with all the flair that they possess. Chennaiyin gave them a lot of trouble and if it weren’t for Mourtada Fall at the back, they could easily have lost the game. And when a player of Adam Le Fondre’s quality is around, the opposition can always be punished if they don’t take their chances.
4) Csaba László’s Men Impress
The Machans rushed out of the blocks against Mumbai. They realized the inherent risks associated with allowing the Islanders to play and set out to counter them. Even a player of Ahmed Jahouh’s quality, who usually has so much time on the ball, was rattled by the intensity of Chennaiyin’s press. Using the pace of Lallianzuala Chhangte to good effect, László’s side threatened constantly and ended the game with eight attempts on goal, three more than Mumbai. They could easily have walked away with a victory and it was an opportunity spurned, as the manager’s demeanor at full-time showed. Jakub Sylvestr finally has a goal though, and there is plenty for the two-time champions to build on.
SC East Bengal 0 – Jamshedpur FC 0
5) Rotten Luck For Lyngdoh
Two years ago, we were talking about Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s struggles after injury, and nothing has changed. Once the toast of the town, the player has had a horrible thirty-six months. Now at East Bengal, his first start for the club lasted all of twenty-four minutes. Two quickfire yellow cards, the second of which was a tad harsh, ended his night prematurely. He just cannot seem to catch a break and the same can be said about the red-and-gold brigade. They were struggling to get into the game even before being reduced to ten men, and three points were no longer an option once the midfielder left the field. Jeje Lalpekhlua was hooked at half-time and it was all-hands-on-deck time. Robbie Fowler’s men escaped with a point and they have something to build on.
6) Valskis Has An Off Day
When Aniket Jadhav inexplicably blazed over the bar in the opening five minutes, the die was cast for the Red Miners. They had 69% of the ball and attempted fourteen shots on goal. Only two of them were on target though as East Bengal defended resolutely. Nerijus Valskis came into this fixture in red-hot scoring form and would have expected to be in the goals against the bottom-placed team in the league. He came close with an acrobatic volley which flashed by the net and both attempts on target came via his head, albeit softly. Owen Coyle will be aware that his team is heavily dependent on the Lithuanian. He has scored all but one of Jamshedpur’s goals this season and such inordinate amount of reliance on one player is not healthy or sustainable. The goals have to come from elsewhere too and the likes of Jadhav have to step up.
ATK Mohun Bagan 1 – Hyderabad FC 1
7) Tide Has Turned For The Mariners
After picking up three wins in three, the champions have stumbled over the last two games. They have not exactly been prolific this season but had shown an extra bit of quality in those initial games to get over the line. Or to be specific, Roy Krishna had. One man does not make an attack though and like Valskis, the goal scoring burden lies heavily on him. The Fijian had struck up a prolific partnership with his good friend, David Williams, last season but the Australian has not been on the field too much. Edu Garcia and Brad Inman have not stepped up to the plate either. Manvir Singh is impressing and he took his goal very well in this fixture but there are structural issues for Antonio López Habas to resolve. His side rely on quick counters the way they play and at the moment, the individual parts are not coming together.
8) Roca Has A Game Plan That Works
Manuel Roca is pulling rabbits out of the hat. The Spaniard continues to lose his foreign players with talismanic striker, Aridane Santana, the latest to bite the injury bullet. Yet, they continue to play aesthetically pleasing football built on a solid foundation. The one area they could improve is on the goals front. They have only scored thrice in four games and two of these have been penalties. Once the injured players are back, hopefully this will be addressed. Their defensive solidity will keep them in the hunt till that happens. They have only let in two goals, and this has allowed them to stay in touching distance of the top four.
Odisha FC 0 – FC Goa 1
9) Arshdeep Helps Keep The Score Down
Arshdeep Singh was understudy to Francisco Dorronsoro last season. Josep Gombau was that rare manager in the league who employed a foreign goalkeeper and the Spaniard was his first choice in that position for 2018-19. In certain games last year though, Arshdeep started when Gombau needed more overseas players in other positions. Stuart Baxter has reverted to Indian type and has alternated between Arshdeep, Kamaljit Singh and Ravi Kumar. The Chandigarh-born player put in a good audition for a permanent role with an inspired performance against the Gaurs. A string of quality saves kept Odisha in the game until the end and while the Juggernauts are certainly not living up to their name, they have not been blown out of the water against the big teams.
10) Gaurs Continue Climb Up Table
After stumbling in the first three games, Goa have clicked into gear. All their foreign players seem to have settled well and Cesar Ferrando could even afford to leave Edu Bedia out of the starting lineup. In Alexander Romario Jesuraj, they have a winger who has not looked out of place in an eleven where the other Indian players are mostly established. The two-time I-League winner with Chennai City and Mohun Bagan has caught the eye since the start of the season. Here, he found Igor Angulo with a neat pull-back seconds before halftime and secured his second assist of the season. He will continue to compete with Seminlen Doungel and Redeem Tlang for minutes, but the signs are good at the moment for the player from Dindigul in Tamil Nadu.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page