ATK Mohun Bagan 1 – Bengaluru FC 0
1) Williams Finally Turns Up To Party
Roy Krishna has missed his friend, David Williams. The two players with a telepathic understanding of each other’s movement on a football field have found very little game time together this season. The Australian had a disruptive preseason and it has taken him some time to get to speed with the demands of the league. After playing ninety-two minutes against Goa in the previous game, where he looked like getting back to his best, he produced a goal of the highest quality against Bengaluru. He brought down a great ball from Carl McHugh on the edge of the box and evaded the attention of both Harmanjot Khabra and Pratik Chowdhary before finishing beyond a despairing Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. One goal usually does the business for the champions and so it proved here as well.
2) Blues Suffer First Defeat
Carles Cuadrat’s men missed their chance to leapfrog their opponents in the table. Instead, a four-point cushion has been established with ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City having the opportunity to open up a gap at the top. The Blues looked devoid of ideas in the first half and balls over the top had them in trouble constantly. They looked better once Suresh Wangjam replaced Udanta Singh in the second half. He produced a cutback that Cleiton Silva could have done better with, but the Mariners were solid and organized at the back as usual. Bengaluru ended the game with more shots than the victors, but crucially only two of them were on target. These two teams will expect to face each other in the latter stages of the tournament and it is Antonio López Habas’ side that have drawn first blood.
Odisha FC 2 – NorthEast United 2
3) Alexander Salvages Point With A Stunner
Cole Alexander became only the second South African to ply his trade in the Indian Super League when he joined Odisha. Sameehg Doutie had previously played for Atlético De Kolkata and Jamshedpur FC. Stuart Baxter had called Alexander up for national duty when he managed the South African national team, Bafana Bafana, and was keen on being reunited with his former player. He had been a steady if unspectacular presence in midfield for Odisha until this game. Producing his best display since the narrow defeat against ATK Mohun Bagan, he scored a goal of great quality to salvage a point for the Juggernauts. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, and with the excellent Benjamin Lambot limiting his options, Alexander had to go for the far corner and hope for sufficient whip and curl on his end product. The odds were against him finding the target, but when he craned his neck to look beyond the mass of players in the box, there was a lovely surprise waiting for him.
4) Highlanders Go On The Attack For Once
NorthEast United have strayed from their template only once before. Willing to concede an inordinate amount of possession to their opponents, only in the game against Kerala (50%) have they looked to consciously keep the ball. They must have sensed an opportunity against Stuart Baxter’s Odisha because the Highlanders came flying out of the blocks. Diego Mauricio’s opener only spurred them on even more and they carried the greater goal threat throughout the game. Yet another penalty came their way and Kwesi Appiah made no mistake this time around, but they also had another nineteen shots on goal. Gerard Nus was unhappy at the post-game interview and this was understandable because his side could have consolidated their position in the top four.
Jamshedpur FC 1 – FC Goa 2
5) Goal Cruelly Taken Away From Lima
Alex Lima had the perfect opportunity to atone for the penalty he conceded when he burst through the Goan defence in the 87th minute. He took it by crashing the ball in through the underside of the bar. Except that the goal wasn’t given. The ball was at least a few inches inside the goal, but the linesman failed to notice this and as usually is the case, the Gaurs grabbed the winner at the other end soon after. It was the latest in a string of refereeing decisions that have gone against the Miners and this time, Owen Coyle’s rant on TV was justified. His side would have gone third in the table with a win. Instead, they dropped down to sixth, having played two games more than the chasing pack. Such are the margins in football.
6) Bedia Playing Jahouh Role For Gaurs
Edu Bedia has taken on more responsibility after the departure of many star players in the off-season. After reveling in advanced positions in the 2018-19 season, he was relegated to a supporting role last year with Hugo Boumous excelling as a number ten behind Ferran Corominas. This season, Juan Ferrando has asked him to play the deep lying role that Ahmed Jahouh performed so well during his time at the club. No player has completed more than the 601 passes Bedia has made so far this season and in that respect, he is fulfilling his brief. The Spanish player and the two centre-backs, James Donachie and Iván Gonzales completed three times the passes of any Jamshedpur player in this match. While impressive, it also begs the question of whether his talents are being wasted deeper down the field.
SC East Bengal 2 – Chennaiyin FC 2
7) Red-And-Gold Brigade Slowly Improving
Robbie Fowler came out swinging in the post-match interview. East Bengal have been getting a lot of negative press in the media and Eelco Schattorie was his target, unsurprisingly. The outspoken Dutchman was critical of the way the Kolkata side had played in the first half, and perhaps rightly so. A change in personnel and tactics brought about rewards and while Fowler was not too happy with only a point, his side have not lost in two and that is definitely an improvement on early-season results. They have a new goal scorer in the excellent Matti Steinmann. Jacques Maghoma had been the only other player to contribute in the league coming into this fixture and while the German is not in the side to score goals, Fowler will take all the help he can get at the moment.
8) Chennaiyin Wasteful Yet Again
The Marina Machans had eighteen shots and somehow managed to leave the Tilak Maidan with only two goals to their name. They missed a couple of golden chances to seal the points and the manager must be quite troubled with their wastefulness. No one epitomizes this more than the man entrusted with goalscoring responsibilities this season. Jakub Sylvestr is the only player to have taken a minimum of fifteen shots and register only one goal. As a team, Chennaiyin have missed ten big chances this season, more than any other side in the league. They have had no trouble getting close to the goal and creating opportunities, as evidenced by the fourteen shots attempted inside the box. There is a recurring theme here and Czaba László needs to address it as soon as possible.
Kerala Blasters 2 – Hyderabad FC 0
9) Vicuña Gamble Pays Off
Kibu Vicuña had seen enough. After six matches without a win, he rang in wholesale changes and dropped three of his star foreign players. He did not even name them in the matchday squad. Those who came in took their chances, and how. Abdul Hakku started at centre-back with Sandeep Singh and grabbed a goal in his first appearance of the season. The Blasters did not have a lot of the ball, especially in the second half but looked like a team for the first time this season. They fully deserved their win and if the manager was trying to make a point to his misfiring stars, it must have landed pretty well. On this evidence, they may have a day off in Kerala’s next fixture against Mumbai as well.
10) Aridane Has An Off-Night
Aridane Santana had one of those nights when nothing comes off. The Nizams are heavily dependent on him for goals and his contributions have been crucial to Hyderabad picking up points until now. After bagging a brace against East Bengal, he has now blanked in two fixtures and they have both been the only defeats of the season for Manuel Roca’s men. While he didn’t really have many chances against the Islanders in the previous fixture, it was a case of leaving his shooting boots behind against Kerala. He got into good positions and got shots off which were on target. On any other night, a couple of them would have gone in. Hyderabad have slipped down the table over the last two weeks. With quite a few teams bunched together, it will not be cause for alarm yet but avoiding defeat against Goa will be key to them going into the new year in a good mood.
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