Kerala Blasters 1 – Mumbai City FC 2
1)Inability To Close Out Games Hurt Blasters Again
Kerala have lost sixteen points from a winning position this season, comfortably more than any other team in the league. It is not a new malaise either. Eelco Schattorie’s side lost fourteen from similar positions last season. There is no doubt that the Blasters have played some very good football in recent games. Once all their players got up to speed on the fitness front, they have matched their opponents and even outplayed them on occasion. Against arguably the best team in the competition, Kerala found the target with ten out of their twelve shots. But then, it is not their offence that is misfiring. No team has conceded more than the twenty-seven goals Kibu Vicuña’s men have shipped this season. Lapses in concentration have contributed massively and that was the case here as well. That is the season done and dusted for the massive underachievers of this league.
2) Amrinder Puts Forward His Credentials Yet Again
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been served notice yet again as his rival for the Indian goalkeeping shirt put in an inspired performance. Amrinder Singh was the difference between the two sides, pulling off save after save before Bipin Singh and Adam Le Fondre punished the Blasters for their profligacy. Reports have emerged of a move to ATK Mohun Bagan next season on a big five-year contract and if they are true, Mumbai should do everything in their power to keep the custodian from Punjab. The solidity he provides at the back makes a world of difference to this Sergio Lobera side. The Spaniard has worked with perfectly serviceable goalkeepers in the past but Singh’s unflustered approach spreads calm through his defence line in a way Mohammad Nawaz never did. Amrinder will want a second Golden Glove award to go with his win in 2016 and on his displays so far, not too many will bet against it happening this season.
NorthEast United 2 – FC Goa 2
3) Penalty Merchants Keep Run Going
No team has gotten more than the eight penalties the Highlanders have been awarded this season. Federico Gallego has taken over spot kick duties from Kwesi Appiah and Idrissa Sylla now that he has been fully integrated and unlike the aforementioned players, he is yet to miss any of the three penalties he has taken. He almost did with his second attempt against the Gaurs, hitting his effort too close to the keeper, but Dheeraj Singh allowed the ball to squirm through into the goal. While some may consider NorthEast United lucky to be given two penalties in a game, they were fully deserving of a point. On the balance of play, they probably edged it and Khalid Jamil must be pleased that his side have navigated through a tricky run of fixtures as well as they have.
4) Fourth Consecutive Draw For Goa
The Gaurs have been frustrated in their efforts to consolidate their position in the table recently. A spate of draws have allowed the chasing pack, including the Highlanders, to catch up and there is a real possibility now that they may slip out of the playoff spots. They have a tough run-in with matches against teams competing for those very spots. Edu Bedia was missed following his sending off against East Bengal and with the influential Princeton Rebello stretchered off in the first half, Goa failed to exert sustained pressure on the opposition. It was heartening to see Amarjit Singh Kayam contribute to a goal in his first appearance for the club though. The young midfielder had found opportunities hard to come by at Jamshedpur and he will hope to get more minutes at a side that will appreciate his talents more.
Bengaluru FC 0 – Chennaiyin FC 0
5) Another Flat Performance From The Blues
After securing their first win in nine games against East Bengal, Bengaluru reverted to type with an underwhelming display against the Machans. They went in with a 4-4-2 formation with Parag Srivas pushed up into midfield and Ajith Kumar playing as the right-back. It did not have the desired effect. Chennaiyin created more chances and looked like the team that offered the more consistent threat in both halves. The Blues were indebted to their goalkeeper who kept the chances at bay without being unduly troubled. It was not a result that helped either side and Bengaluru stayed three points off the playoff places having played a game more than the sides above them in the table.
6) Lanzarote Inclusion Does Not Change Anything
Manuel Lanzarote finally made his debut for Chennaiyin after being flown in to revive their fortunes. With Rafael Crivellaro ruled out for the season following an ankle ligament injury, the Machans have been waiting on his fellow Brazilian, who had to complete mandatory quarantine requirements before being eligible to play. Lanzarote is a player with an enviable record of goals and assists in the league during his earlier stint and he did try to set up his teammates on a few occasions. Chance creation, however, has not been Chennaiyin’s achilles heel this season; goal scoring has. He will need to produce on that front, and fast. The Machans may need to win all their four remaining fixtures to remain in contention. For a team that has won only three games in sixteen, it is a tall task.
Odisha FC 1 – ATK Mohun Bagan 4
7) No New Manager Bounce For Juggernauts
Having lost Stuart Baxter, who was fired for making inappropriate comments after the defeat against Jamshedpur, Odisha went in with Gerald Payton as the new boss. The Juggernauts stayed in the game for a long time, especially in the first half, but were well beaten in the end. When Cole Alexander equalized on the stroke of halftime with a brilliant effort, Odisha may have fancied their chances of a win. However, when a team has only produced that result once in the whole season, it needed a spectacular effort from the players in the second period, and that was not forthcoming. Payton’s focus now on in would be to avoid the wooden spoon and even that looks unlikely.
8) Marcelinho Gets The Better Of Old Employers
In my season preview, I had mentioned that Marcelinho could possibly do well in an organized team where he had a free role of sorts in front of the midfield. At Odisha, he really did not fit in well with Stuart Baxter’s plans but with ATK Mohun Bagan struggling of late on the creativity front, the midseason move seems to have paid off handsomely for the player. He has injected a bit of flair to a side that is as pragmatic as they come. He did not score or assist in this game, but his presence has galvanized the Mariners’ frontline to some extent. Manvir Singh had a stormer of a game, showing yet again why he is rated so highly by astute football watchers. And Roy Krishna had a hand in all four goals, jumping to the top of the scoring leaderboard while collecting his fourth and fifth goals in the last three games. A fascinating battle for the top position in the league with Mumbai shows no sign of abating.
Jamshedpur FC 1 – SC East Bengal 2
9) Old Habits Kick In For Miners
If one was under the illusion that Jamshedpur had turned a corner since their victory against Odisha, they were laid to rest almost immediately. There were none of the fireworks on the benches that characterized the stalemate between these two teams earlier in the season and it was the same with the Miners’ performance as well. With Nerijus Valskis looking like he has mentally checked out a bit, there is hardly any threat that Jamshedpur carry with their attacks and it was the same against East Bengal. Peter Hartley scored late on to make a brief match of it, but Owen Coyle’s men eventually went quietly into the night.
10) East Bengal Do Not Miss Coach On The Touchlines
With Robbie Fowler suspended for four games following an outburst on television, his assistant Tony Grant took over on the sidelines and supervised over a good win. The ever-excellent Matti Steinmann put the team 1-0 ahead as early as the sixth minute and then played in Anthony Pilkington just in the nick of time to double their advantage in the second half. It was only the second goal of the campaign for Pilkington, who came into the league with a big reputation, but he has bought into the work ethic that Fowler demands. The rewards have arrived too late for a sustained assault on the playoff places, but the absent manager watching his team from a distance looked happy for once.
Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page