NorthEast United 2 – Hyderabad FC 4
1) Search For Win Continues For Highlanders
NorthEast United are winless in six. In an entertaining fixture, they had the better of the exchanges in the first half but still found themselves 0-2 down a few minutes before the break. A penalty which should not have been awarded in the first place and a set piece which produced a goal that should have been disallowed restored parity. While lucky, their performance definitely merited those goals. The same cannot be said for their display in the second half. Hyderabad clearly carried more of a threat and Gerard Nus’ substitutions possibly erred on the side of caution. A couple of late goals killed them, and in the points table, they have more teams to worry about in the rearview mirror.
2) Colaco Deals In Braces
Liston Colaco has only scored four goals in his brief ISL career. They’ve all come in two fixtures against NorthEast United. Almost a year since he announced himself on the big stage at Guwahati, he sealed the points for Hyderabad with two brilliantly taken goals. The first one curled beyond the keeper after he cut in from the right while the second was laid on for him to run onto by Aridane Santana’s shoulder. Like with his short number of appearances at the fag end last season, Colaco has made a lot of people sit up and take notice again this year without the numbers to back him up. The eye test suggest a rare talent and in Manuel Roca, he seems to have a manager who can take him to the next level. If he can get his scoring numbers up, the national team may have a natural replacement for Sunil Chhetri.
Bengaluru FC 0 – SC East Bengal 1
3) Baptism By Fire For Moosa
Former India international, Naushad Moosa, took over as interim manager at Bengaluru and immediately rang in the changes. The head of youth development and reserve team coach took a gamble on his wards, Parag Srivas, and Ajith Kumar; both of whom found places in the starting lineup. They were culpable in the goal the Blues conceded but Moosa believes that their abilities on the ball will help Bengaluru get out of the rut they are in. Namgyal Bhutia and Amay Morajkar got minutes in the second half as well and it looks like Moosa will use his limited time on the sidelines to freshen things up for the incoming manager. With half the season remaining and the side off the playoff places, it is highly unlikely that the management will trust Moosa in the long term. With more support from the senior players, he will do well to steady the ship before handing over the reins.
4) Turnaround Continues For East Bengal
The Red-And-Gold Brigade are on a hot streak after suffering four defeats in their first five fixtures. They have built on consecutive draws against Kerala and Chennaiyin and secured two wins their last three fixtures. When they take on the Blasters again in the next round, they would not have lost for a month and that is a situation no one envisaged not too long ago. Robbie Fowler’s team looks a lot more organized and in the mould of their manager now with Bright Enobakhare’s addition to the squad providing a major fillip. They have moved to a back three in the last couple of games with Narayan Das and Ankit Mukherjee as wingbacks and it certainly seems to have added balance to the team. With the ever-excellent Matti Steinmann pulling strings in midfield, the tide has well and truly turned for East Bengal.
Chennaiyin FC 0 – Odisha FC 0
5) Ali Adopts Machans’ Goal-Shy Ways
Rahim Ali has forced his way into the starting lineup at Chennaiyin after an impressive cameo against Goa. After goals in consecutive matches, he has faded a bit on that front. He has put himself in good positions and looked good even in the goalless draw against ATK Mohun Bagan but the general goal scoring malaise at the Machans seems to have caught on. Against Odisha, he had two glorious opportunities to win the tie for his side but spurned both of them. The manager reposed faith in him by playing him up front instead of Jakub Sylvestr. It was a golden opportunity for the U-17 World Cup player, of whom many good things are expected in future. In the here and now, he may just have forced his manager to look elsewhere.
6) Two-Game Unbeaten Streak For The Juggernauts
When you are languishing at the bottom of the table, one lives for small mercies. Odisha avoided a loss for two games running and it was the longest such streak they had managed in the season. They did not produce too many chances in the game but were denied a goal towards the end of the first half when Diego Mauricio strayed offside by a tiny margin. It was the closest they would come to threatening the goal and the Juggernauts reverted to type after pumping in four against Kerala in the previous fixture. Still, they moved off the bottom of the table and above the Blasters, albeit temporarily as it would turn out.
Jamshedpur FC 2 – Kerala Blasters 3
7) Paramba Produces Horror Show Against Former Side
Rehenesh Paramba made a name for himself in the second edition of the Indian Super League. In brilliant form for NorthEast United throughout the campaign, he pulled off 47 saves, the most of any goalkeeper and secured four clean sheets, the most by an Indian custodian. In July 2019, he made his way to his home state, Kerala, and joined the Blasters. In Eelco Schattorie’s side, his mistakes became more pronounced and an unwanted reputation was forged. His start at the Miners did not go too well. In only the second game, his handball outside the box allowed Odisha back into the fixture and a share of the points. The performances since had been good but a mistake was always around the corner. Three in one match handed Kerala the game. For the second time this season, a Nerijus Valskis brace did not lead to victory because of his goalkeeper.
8) Victory Buys Vicuña Time
All the talk before this fixture was of the manager’s future. After Carles Cuadrat’s departure at Bengaluru FC, Kibu Vicuña was under pressure after underwhelming results all season. A heavy defeat against Odisha did not help matters and it is anybody’s guess what would have happened if the Blasters did not come away with a win against Jamshedpur. It so nearly did not happen. When Lalruatthara was sent off for a second yellow with almost thirty minutes still left to play, Kerala would probably have been content with a point. Jordan Murray found the net a couple of times with a generous hand from Paramba and the Spaniard lives to fight another day.
ATK Mohun Bagan 0 – Mumbai City FC 1
9) Mariners Do Not Get A Sniff
In the first half against the Islanders, ATK Mohun Bagan could not even get a shot off, let alone a shot on target. They were pinned into their own half as Mumbai played keep-ball and controlled proceedings. The 5-4-1 that Antonio López Habas employed did not work as the wingers, Manvir Singh and David Williams, were both pegged back. This left Roy Krishna isolated up front with a lack of service visibly frustrating the Fijian. Manvir and Glan Martins were both hooked at halftime and the formation changed to something familiar as Habas sought to improve matters. While the Mariners did improve, Mumbai deserved their goal and victory. There’s plenty for the champions to chew over before the reverse fixture.
10) Mumbai Midfield Immense In The Absence Of Jahouh
With the Moroccan missing through suspension, other players had to step up to the plate and take responsibility. And step up they did. Hugo Boumous, Rowllin Borges and Raynier Fernandes all had great games and laid down a marker for the rest of the season. Boumous’ surging run for the goal was a thing of beauty and Bartholomew Ogbeche employed the kind of finish a move of that quality deserved. The Islanders have now equalled their longest unbeaten run in the league (W8 D1) and are good for a few more. They are undoubtedly the team to beat this season and, on this evidence, should stroll the league.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page