FC Goa 1 – ATK Mohun Bagan 1
1) Gaurs Salvage Draw Against Champions
After erring in keeping Brandon Fernandes and Jorge Ortiz on the bench in the reverse fixture, Juan Ferrando made sure he did not repeat that mistake. This time around though, it was Igor Angulo who was an unused substitute. The Spaniard has supposedly been ill in recent days but after making a brief appearance against Jamshedpur, expectations were rife that he would start this game. Even when Goa were chasing the game, it was Ishan Pandita who was called upon and while the youngster got the goal that salvaged a point, it was strange to see the league’s top scorer cooling his heels on the bench. Ortiz and Alberto Noguera struck a good partnership in the previous game against Jamshedpur and maybe the manager trusted that combination to do the job. While there might not be much to read into here, a close eye will be kept on the starting lineup against Kerala.
2) Smash-And-Grab Fails For Once
The ATK Mohun Bagan template for success failed for once. It was all going according to plan. Goa, expectedly, had most of the ball and more shots on goal. The masters of the late goal had absorbed everything that was thrown at them while carrying some threat themselves. When James Donachie conceded a free kick on the edge of the box in the 74th minute, the die was cast. Duly enough, Edu Garcia hammered a thunderbolt into the top left corner. While there could be questions asked of the positioning of the wall and the keeper, no one was really surprised with the result. So far, so good. With only a few minutes left for the full-time whistle though, a ball fell kindly for Pandita in the box and he converted the chance. It was the first time this season that ATK Mohun Bagan had conceded in the final twenty minutes. Do not expect them to make a habit of it.
Jamshedpur FC 1 – NorthEast United 2
3) Miners In Alarming Run
After losing only once in their first seven fixtures, Jamshedpur have now lost four out of their last five. Unsurprisingly, this run has coincided with Nerijus Valskis’ barren spell in front of goal. His only goals in the last six outings have been in the loss against the Blasters. In what was his poorest game of the season, he missed multiple opportunities which would have been buried otherwise. The over dependence on the Lithuanian has been a concern right through the season and it has started having a bearing on results. More worryingly for Owen Coyle, the Miners looked completely off the pace for most of the match against a team seemingly in turmoil. He will have to turn things around quickly or risk becoming a one-season manager like all his predecessors at the club.
4) Jamil Return Coincides With Long Awaited Win
Khalid Jamil returned from the fringes and took over as the interim manager at the Highlanders following Gerard Nus’ sacking. It had the desired effect as his side won for the first time in eight games. Journeyman, Ashutosh Mehta, gave NorthEast the lead with his first ISL goal following a corner. With Federico Gallego now back to full fitness following a long spell out with injury, his influence has been increasing with every outing and he ran the show here. His set-piece delivery produced the first goal and a threaded through ball allowed Deshorn Brown to open his account for the season. The Jamaican had been starved of delivery at Bengaluru and a mid-season transfer looks like smart business for all concerned at the moment. It remains to be seen if a corner has well and truly been turned at the club, but it has started well for Jamil.
Chennaiyin FC 0 – SC East Bengal 0
5) Chennaiyin Spurn Big Opportunity
It could not have gone any better for the Machans. When Ajay Chhetri was sent off for a second yellow card only thirty-one minutes into the game, an opportunity to take control of the fixture opened up. They never did and the fact that even a single big chance wasn’t created is a serious indictment of this side. Anirudh Thapa’s unfortunate injury obviously did not help but Chennaiyin lack creativity at the moment without Rafael Crivellaro. It remains to be seen if Manuel Lanzarote can recapture the form he showed at Goa in 2017-18 but he is the sort of player who could open up defences. It is altogether another matter that the team’s misfiring front men may not make the most of his interventions. For now, Csaba László and his team remain within touching distance of the playoff spots but the worst attack in the league has to improve on its numbers.
6) Fowler’s Boorish Behavior Off-Putting
In yet another tirade on television, Robbie Fowler had a go at the referees (no surprise there) and studio panel. The behavior of his support staff and the objectionable language they used on camera during the match was the bone of contention. Brushing aside the observations of Pradhyum Reddy, he attributed their actions to football being a ‘men’s game.’ His team have certainly put in some good performances recently despite being saddled with an unequipped squad and for that he deserves credit. Some of his criticism of the refereeing certainly have merit as well but he is not endearing himself to the larger Indian football community with some of his actions. Yet again, another brilliant rearguard action by his players was overshadowed by his demeanour in front of the cameras. East Bengal have gone unbeaten for seven games now and hopefully when some of those draws turn into wins, the Englishman’s mood will improve.
Hyderabad FC 1 – Odisha FC 1
7) Nizams Pay For Not Making Domination Count
Until Cole Alexander scored for Odisha in the 51st minute, one wouldn’t have been mistaken in thinking that there was only one team in the contest. Hyderabad had gotten into double-digit territory for shots in the first half itself, such was their domination. Save for Holicharan Narzary’s side footed finish though, they failed to take their chances and were punished for their largesse. Odisha came back into the game and finished the stronger side. This was an opportunity for Manuel Roca’s impressive side to consolidate their position in the upper echelons of the table. There must be more than a twinge of regret that they failed to do so against the bottom placed side in the competition. With some tough fixtures to come, they have left the door open for the chasing pack.
8) Odisha Show Real Spirit
If not for a couple of interventions by Akash Mishra in the closing minutes, the Juggernauts could have walked away with three points. This seemed scarcely believable at halftime as Odisha played like a team that was rooted to the bottom. Cole Alexander’s finish early in the second half came out of nowhere but revitalized a side that had been going through the motions until then. Diego Mauricio looked a completely different player and ran the Hyderabad defence ragged. If they had taken their late chances, Stuart Baxter’s men would probably have thought they were still in the race. As it stands though, they may have given themselves a bit too much to do in their remaining fixtures. The spirit remains intact on this showing, but a lack of quality has caught them out when it mattered.
Kerala Blasters 2 – Bengaluru FC 1
9) Rahul Goal Further Proof Of U-17 WC Squad Progress
So confident are the Blasters that Rahul Kannoly Praveen will come good that they have tied him down to a contract till 2025. The Thrissur-born winger is not yet the final product but has shown definitive improvement ever since he represented the country in the U17 World Cup. There are plenty of players from that squad who are making their mark at various ISL clubs this season. When he scored against the Blues, he became the second youngest player with a minimum of two goals this season; the youngest being Rahim Ali at Chennaiyin FC. Rahim is, of course, his old teammate with that World Cup squad. It is the quality and power in Rahul’s shots that stands out and it is twice now that he has beaten India’s number one at the near post. His late heroics here meant that Kerala have now collected seven points in their last three games. They had one fewer in their first nine.
10) Defensive Solidity A Thing Of The Past For The Blues
Bengaluru only conceded thirteen goals in the entirety of the regular campaign last season. The resilience they showed at the back helped mask the lack of threat they have had in the offensive areas for a while now. It carried them into the playoff places and a quirk of fate meant that they will compete in Asian competition this season. On current form, they will not do too well. Both Albert Roca and Carles Cuadrat prided themselves in being difficult to beat but the Blues have been far too easy to play through. The absence of Albert Serrán who formed such a great partnership with Juanan has definitely been a factor as has the fact that the entire backline has been rejigged. With their ongoing troubles upfront as well, they may well end up mid-table this season. For a team that considered a fourth-place finish in the I-League in 2016-17 a disaster, it would be a tough pill to swallow.
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