ATK Mohun Bagan 1 – Chennaiyin FC 0
1) The 1-0 Specialists Do It Again
Five of the Mariners’ seven wins this season have come via the solitary goal in the game. Three of those goals have arrived very, very late as they are wont to do. While it is Roy Krishna who usually provides the late heroics, David Williams decided to step up this time around as he headed in Javi Hernández’s corner in added time. Coming into this fixture, a battle between the two lowest scoring teams in the league (East Bengal were tied with the Mariners on eleven) panned out exactly as most people thought it would. There were very few opportunities for two sides who never threatened to rise above the mundane. ATK Mohun Bagan are second for a reason though. With 91.7% of their goals this season coming in the second half, they always seem to find a way and it was no different against the Machans.
2) Same Old Chennaiyin On Display
The Machans keep plugging on despite having forgotten the route to goal. Thoi Singh came into the starting lineup to try and make a difference but it made no difference. A match against the defence-minded Mariners was always going to be tough though. They were limited to zero big chances and just the one effort inside the box. Chasing a late equalizer, they almost got one when Arindam Bhattacharya was left stranded coming out for the ball. Enes Sipović’s header was going in but Tiri’s brilliant last-ditch clearance saved the goalkeeper’s blushes. Just like the champions, Chennaiyin know how to defend their goal well enough but their lack of output at the other end is really hurting their chances.
SC East Bengal 0 – Mumbai City FC 1
3) Unbeaten Run Ends But Plenty Of Positives
It is not often that a Sergio Lobera side cedes possession to the other team. The fact that Robbie Fowler’s team almost had two-thirds of the ball is testament to the amount of work he is putting on the training ground. East Bengal have improved considerably since those early weeks when nothing was going for them. The way they played against possibly the best team in the league showed others that Mumbai can be got at using their own game. The Red-And-Gold Brigade did not create many clear-cut chances but if a couple of set piece opportunities had been taken, they could have gone away with a win. A draw would have felt like a fair result, but football is all about the margins and there is a fairly big gap between these two teams in terms of personnel.
4) Fall’s Aerial Prowess Provides Additional Dimension
In all the years that Lobera sides have thrilled Indian football watchers, there is a facet that has sometimes gone unnoticed. They may be hailed for the free-flowing possession-based football but the Gaurs were, and Mumbai currently is very good at set-pieces. The man leading the way on that front is the Senegalese defender, Mourtada Fall. He, of course, followed his manager from Goa to Mumbai in that famous purge during the offseason. Against East Bengal, he equalled the record for the most headed goals in the Indian Super League with his eleventh contribution. He joined the unlikely figure of 5’7’’Sunil Chhetri (not that unlikely when you think about it) at the top of the tree. The way Bengaluru are playing, Fall could very well find himself alone at the summit by the time the season is done.
Kerala Blasters 1 – FC Goa 1
5) Pereyra Keeps Delivering
Early on in the transfer window, Kerala fans were dismayed to read about rumors linking Facundo Pereyra to other clubs. Given that the Argentinian has probably been their best player this season, there was merit to their worries. Thankfully, he has stayed put and been central to their recent revival. After scoring only eight goals in their first eight fixtures, they have not gone scoreless in their last four and have almost matched that tally with seven. He creates the most chances for this team and a return of three assists does not do justice to the value he brings. It was his corner to the back post that allowed Rahul KP to arrive late and thump in the equalizer. Now, the talk is about an extended contract with the club keen to tie his future to the Blasters. It would be a sensible move for a franchise which struggles historically to get the most out of their foreign players.
6) Double Blow For The Gaurs
The centre-back pairing of James Donachie and Iván Garrido have helped Goa tide over the loss of Mourtada Fall and Carlos Peña. Without setting the world on fire, they have been a steady influence at the back while Juan Ferrando has tried to instill his philosophy on this team. He has just lost both of them. Donachie picked up an injury early and was replaced by Mohamed Ali while the Spaniard managed to accumulate two yellow cards in the space of thirty seconds. The first was for a foul on Gary Hooper. While protesting what was an admittedly soft yellow card, he placed his hand on the referee and was given his marching orders. There may be an effort on the part of the league now to clamp down on poor behavior, both on the field and the benches. Garrido found himself on the wrong end of that endeavour and has given Ferrando a selection challenge before the next game against East Bengal.
Jamshedpur FC 0 – Hyderabad FC 0
7) Choudhary Returns To The Miners
Farukh Choudhary returned to Jamshedpur just months after moving to Mumbai in a high-profile transfer. After finding favour with Sergio Lobera initially, he has been cooling his heels on the bench recently. The Miners have been struggling for goals and it made sense for the Indian international to try his luck at his old club. Jackichand Singh made the trek in the opposite direction and reunited with his former manager at Goa. Farukh made the starting eleven immediately and while he did not cap his performance with a goal, there was plenty on show to suggest that Owen Coyle will be happy with the deal. His main striker, Nerijus Valskis, has not scored in three games and there is a desperate need for that burden to be shared.
8) Nizams Miss Chance to Consolidate Fourth Spot
Victory would have allowed Hyderabad to put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack but the Nizams have had their own troubles in front of goal recently. They started this game on the front foot and had a few opportunities to take the lead before the Miners settled into the game. Akash Mishra continued with his impressive form, bombing forward from full-back at every opportunity, and he really has been one of the stories of this season. The Jamshedpur citadel could not be breached however, and Manuel Roca had to be content with a third consecutive draw. His side are playing well, and it is surely a matter of time before the goals come in as well.
Bengaluru FC 1 – Odisha FC 1
9) Blues Winless In Seven
Bengaluru’s miserable season continued with a draw against Odisha. Their unbeaten run at the start of the campaign has somehow ensured that they remain in contention for a playoff spot. To their credit, they fought hard after conceding an early goal and the second half made for entertaining viewing as both teams created chances. Erik Paartalu thumped in his ninth ISL goal off a corner late in the game to raise visions of victory but the lack of confidence that permeates through this squad showed in the squandered opportunities. Kristian Opseth is yet to get off the mark in thirteen games and the Norwegian missed a couple of glorious chances. It was the same with Sunil Chhetri, who looks more forlorn with every passing game. He is not used to this, and to be honest, neither are we.
10) Juggernauts Not Throwing In The Towel
At one stage this season, it looked like Odisha could end up with one of the worst points tallies in the history of the league. With only two draws to show for their efforts in the first eight matches, they were down and out for all purposes. The fact that they have pulled themselves up in the last few matches is a great credit to the players and coaching staff. When Diego Mauricio scored early, they would have fancied their chances of securing a second win in the competition. Jerry Mawihmingthanga had a great game and caused all sorts of trouble for Bengaluru on the left flank. He has not netted since a game against Chennaiyin last January though and a couple of chances went abegging. This thrilling game could have gone to either side in the end and while a draw did not suit Stuart Baxter’s men, their spirit remains intact.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page