NorthEast United 1 – Bengaluru FC 1
1) Nus Pays With Job For Middling Results
Gerard Nus took the league by storm when he masterminded a win over Mumbai in his first match in charge. It was no mean achievement. The Islanders have not lost a game since. Even though NorthEast United went unbeaten in their first six fixtures, there were only two victories in those games and results have progressively gotten worse. They have slid down the table and for the owners, the style of play has deviated from what the Highlanders take pride in. Khalid Jamil is back in from the cold and he will guide the team through the rest of the campaign. Goalkeeper, Gurmeet Singh, sent his former manager off in the worst possible way. An incomprehensible error handed Bengaluru a share of the spoils after Luis Machado had put the side 1-0 up.
2) No New Manager Bounce At Bengaluru
If the hope was that Naushad Moosa would turn Bengaluru’s fortunes around, it does not seem to be forthcoming. The Highlanders had the better of the chances in this game and if a better striker than Suhair Vadakkepeedika were up front, the score line would have been very different. The way in which the Blues have gone off the rails is alarming, and it looks like a massive reset will be needed at the club. Sunil Chhetri tried gamely as always but Bengaluru lacked quality all over the pitch. In an ode to all things Carles Cuadrat, they had a goal from yet another set-piece routine though. Rahul Bheke managed to whip in a poor shot towards goal and the goalkeeper managed to guide the ball home with an even poorer effort. Moosa’s men did not particularly deserve it but they will take what they can at this point.
Odisha FC 1 – Chennaiyin FC 2
3) Ever Diminishing Returns From Marcelinho
It has been a case of diminishing returns every season for Marcelinho since he burst onto our screens in 2016. He had fifteen goal contributions for two years running before that number dropped down to ten at FC Pune City in the 2018-19 season. After scoring seven goals and providing two assists at Hyderabad in the last campaign, Odisha took a punt on the mercurial talent this year. He is yet to deliver. His impact has been minimal for a player of his pedigree and Stuart Baxter has used him sparingly. In his first start in more than a month, he played far too deep and hardly contributed towards Odisha’s attacks. Diego Mauricio replaced him at halftime and got the goal that dragged the Juggernauts back into the game. A late onslaught did not produce an equalizer though and Baxter probably regretted starting the game with the Brazilian.
4) Chennaiyin Hope To Have A Saviour In Esmaël
Csaba László finally took Jakub Sylvestr out of the firing line. The striker with just one goal for the Machans this season has lacked confidence for a while now. With everyone else in the forward areas showing remarkable profligacy in front of goal as well, the manager would have been praying for Esmaël Goncalves to make an impact in a crucial game. The Guinea-Bissauan was out injured for the best part of a month and only recently returned to the fold. After grabbing two goals early in this fixture, he now has the third best minutes per goal ratio in the league this season (minimum of three goals). With only Igor Angulo and Bartholomew Ogbeche ahead of him, things are looking good for the forward. It is worth mentioning that two of his three goals have been penalties but a side with embarrassing attacking numbers so far will hold on to anything they can get.
FC Goa 3 – Jamshedpur FC 0
5) Kumar In From The Cold
Naveen Kumar has been missing from our television screens since the ISL final in 2019. After Mohammad Nawaz injured himself a few games into the 2018-19 season, the Gaurs brought their former keeper back on loan from the Blasters. His performances were decent enough for Sergio Lobera to repose his trust in the player for the biggest game of the season even when Nawaz was back. The vote of confidence did not carry over into the next season and the Punjabi stopper did not get a single minute of action. Juan Ferrando brought him in against Chennaiyin and the player did not put a foot wrong. He took home the man-of-the-match award and with Nawaz having only kept one clean-sheet over the campaign, would expect to retain his place against ATK Mohun Bagan.
6) No Complaints From Coyle This Time Around
After the reverse fixture, Owen Coyle rightly called out the quality of refereeing on the night. Alex Lima had a perfectly good goal ruled out even though the ball was a few inches inside the goal. The Brazilian had conceded a penalty that night and the call only compounded matters. If he was hoping for better fortunes in this game, it wasn’t forthcoming. Two yellow cards meant that he headed into the locker room for an early shower. The dismissal did not impact the game as Goa had already sewn up the game. The Miners had been outplayed except for brief bursts at the start and end of the game. An inconsistent season for Jamshedpur continues and a fourth-place finish might be the best they can hope for as the Gaurs pull away in third.
SC East Bengal 1 – Kerala Blasters 1
7) Red-And-Gold Brigade Turn Tables On Blasters
Robbie Fowler was aggrieved when these two teams last met. They conceded in the 95th minute and drew a game they had dominated for large stretches. He did not feel that his team got what they deserved and as luck would have it, got an immediate opportunity to turn the tables on their rivals at the bottom of the table. This goal was scored in the 95th minute as well as Scott Neville rose highest at a corner to head in the equalizer. Both matches have been low in quality and as neither side can really claim to have an edge over the other, a point apiece was probably the right result.
8) Tactical Switch Almost Pays Off
Kerala had a possession of 35.4% in this game, their lowest numbers of the season. Their style has evolved in the past few fixtures to good effect. Gone is the obsession with playing out from the back and they have not hesitated in pumping balls forward for Jordan Murray to chase. It worked perfectly well here as Albino Gomes’ punt caught the East Bengal defence cold. Rana Gharami, who had come in for Raju Gaikwad should probably have done better but Murray, who has now scored five goals in five games, took the opportunity well. If the Blasters had held on for a few more seconds in the end, it would have been a case of the tactics on the night paying off. Three other big chances went abegging and Kibu Vicuña’s side stay in tenth place.
Mumbai City FC 0 – Hyderabad FC 0
9) Boumous-Less Islanders Struggle To Create
With the volume of games Mumbai are expected to play over the coming days, Sergio Lobera decided to give Hugo Boumous a day off. There was definitely an impact on his team’s performance. They had scored in their last nine fixtures but without the Moroccan, missed a player who could connect the midfield with the attack. Adam Le Fondre dropped deep to try and link up play but could not provide the spark that was needed on the night. In fact, most of Mumbai’s players had a quiet game, including Ahmed Jahouh, whose distribution was not at his usual excellent levels. It is hardly cause for alarm for a team that has just gone ten games unbeaten, but Lobera will think twice before leaving his star man out again.
10) Twenty-Eighth Time Is The Charm For Kattimani
To find the last time Laxmikant Kattimani kept a clean sheet, we would have to go all the way back to the third edition of the ISL. That would be 2016. He would play fourteen times for Goa in the 2017-18 season. No clean sheets. He missed the next campaign before moving to Hyderabad as backup for Kamaljit Singh in ISL6. No shutout in six matches. Finally, on his fifth attempt this season, he managed to keep out the most attacking team in the league. He was not kept as busy as say, the 2015 final, but a man making his 50th ISL appearance would have been glad to get this particular monkey off his back. For those interested, his last clean sheet was on the sixteenth of November in 2016. The opponent? Mumbai.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page