Talking Points From Week 22 Of ISL 7

Jamshedpur FC 3 – Bengaluru FC 2

1)Will Sixth Place Be Enough For The Tatas?

Since Jamshedpur FC joined the league in the 2017-18 season, the stated aim of the owners has been to get the team into the playoffs. They barely missed out in their first two attempts, as the Miners finished fifth under both Steve Coppell and César Ferrando. Both of them were disposed with and Antonio Iriondo had his shot last season. That did not work either as Jamshedpur regressed further to finish eighth. Owen Coyle had been handed a two-year contract at the beginning of the season, which suggests that the management had faith in the Irishman. But, after yet another disappointing campaign comes to an end, it will be interesting to see if the manager will be allowed to continue his work at Jamshedpur. There was an over-reliance on Nerijus Valskis for goals this season which was worrying but there has also been a sense that the Miners have not been too far off from where they need to be. Patience in Coyle could yet pay off over the long term. 

2) Chhetri Ends Season With Landmark

A few days after Sunil Chhetri celebrated his 200th appearance for the Blues with a brace against Mumbai, he reached another landmark. By scoring against the Miners, albeit in a losing cause, he notched up his 100thstrike for the club. It was perhaps fitting that he scored with a flying header by beating Stephen Eze to the ball. The two of them have been imperious in the air and Chhetri seemed determined to match the Nigerian, who had scored earlier in the fixture. Bengaluru opted to give starts to a few youngsters and that contributed to the 0-3 score line at halftime. Naushad Moosa tweaked a few things at halftime and the Blues looked a lot better after the break. It was still not enough to avoid defeat though and Bengaluru end the season with their lowest ever points tally. 

NorthEast United 2 – Kerala Blasters 0

3) Impressive Highlanders Secure Playoff Spot

NorthEast United came into this fixture knowing that a draw was enough to secure them a place in the playoffs. They went one better and outplayed the Blasters from the first whistle. If there was pressure on the players’ shoulders, it did not show and V.P. Suhair put the Highlanders ahead after Khassa Camara played in a delicious through ball. On the stroke of halftime, Apuia settled matters with a stunning hit from distance that was worthy of winning any football match. The Highlanders controlled things in the second half with Kerala barely getting a sniff and Khalid Jamil has yet to taste defeat this season. With victories over both Mumbai and ATK Mohun Bagan in recent weeks, his team will go into the playoffs with oodles of confidence. 

4) More Soul Searching For Blasters

After making two finals in the first three seasons, Kerala have made their place in the bottom half of the table. Sixth, ninth, seventh and now tenth. This has been the worst campaign yet in terms of results. Perhaps, more questions should be asked of the owners who seem comfortable with a trigger-happy approach in the appointment and sacking of managers. Gokulam Kerala manager, Vincenzo Annese, mentioned recently that Kibu Vicuña probably deserved more time with this team to turn things around and there are many who share that sentiment. A forlorn side slipped to their ninth defeat of the season and with problems at both ends of the pitch, it is back to square one for everyone involved at the club. 

Odisha FC 6 – SC East Bengal 5

5) Juggernauts End Season On A High

These end of season fixtures with nothing at stake tend to produce outlier results. And this was as much of an outlier as we could get. In the highest scoring game in league history, Odisha came out on top by the odd goal in eleven. Diego Mauricio got on the scoreboard but so did unusual suspects in Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Paul Ramfangzuava and Lalhrezuala Sailung. Jerry deserved his brace after producing five assists over the course of the season while the latter two made the most of the playing time afforded to them in the end stages of a disappointing campaign for the Juggernauts. They ended on a high but there is plenty of work to be done at Odisha before the next season comes around. 

6) Disappointing First Season For Red-And-Gold Brigade

It has been tough going for Robbie Fowler and East Bengal supporters this season. Unlike their traditional rivals who have been in the upper echelons of the table right through, this proud club have had to battle on numerous fronts, some of their own making. Fowler was back on the touchline after serving a four-game ban but it did not have a desired effect on the result as the Red-And-Gold Brigade closed the season out with three straight losses. They led 2-1 at halftime but the fixture turned on its head after the interval when seven goals were scored over the period of twenty-five minutes, mostly by Odisha. It was not the sort of capitulation we would have expected from East Bengal, who for all their misfortune, had refused to throw in the towel all season. There is a rebuild required at the club but after everything that has gone on, it remains to be seen if Fowler is the man to helm it. 

FC Goa 0 – Hyderabad FC 0

7) Adil Khan Helps Send Parent Team Out

Little would the Nizams have thought that Adil Khan’s move on loan to Goa in January would come back to haunt them. The Goan had been frustrated by the lack of playing time at Hyderabad, especially given that he was an established international. The move seemed to benefit all parties at the time but the player managed his first clean sheet of the season at the expense of his parent club. Goa played in the knowledge that a draw suited them just fine and in a cagey affair, their rearguard effort led by Adil helped stem the tide. In the end, the team with the most playoff appearances in the league did just enough over the course of the season to prolong their season. 

8) Twelve Games Unbeaten And Out

Goa came into fixture having gone twelve games unbeaten. Hyderabad were close behind on eleven. By the time the floodlights were dimmed, the fact that the Gaurs had five victories during that period over the Nizams’ four made a lot of difference. The spate of draws over the second half of the season spelled doom for an exciting team who would have made extremely worthy playoff participants. The frustration told in the end with Lluis Sastre tossing a water bottle in the direction of the Goan bench, getting sent off in the process. That bit of boorish behaviour should not distract from what has been an excellent campaign for Manuel Roca’s men. They will be back next season and should do better from the experience. 

Mumbai City FC 2 – ATK Mohun Bagan 0

9) Islanders Take Shield Fair And Square

After putting themselves in a difficult situation in the latter stages of the season, Mumbai clambered right out of it by beating their closest rivals in the last group stage fixture. It had come to this after disappointing results against Goa, Bengaluru and Jamshedpur but Sergio Lobera’s side showed guts and gumption when it was most required. Given that the Islanders won both their games against ATK Mohun Bagan, it was well deserved with so little to separate the two sides otherwise. Mourtada Fall and Bartholomew Ogbeche both showed their class in a high-pressure environment and Lobera was rewarded with a second League Winners Shield after winning it with Goa last season. He has never won the ISL trophy though, and that will be his ultimate aim over the next couple of weeks. 

10) Habas Misses Out On Champions League

After coming in second to Lobera last season, Antonio López Habas had to be content with the same outcome yet again. The AFC Cup does not hold the same allure as the Champions League and after winning the ISL trophy last season, he would have prioritized the Shield this time around. Alas, it was not to be and on the balance of play, he could have few complaints. Mumbai managed the game better and the Mariners’ attack was limited to shots outside the box. The closest they came was when Prabir Das let loose from distance only to see the ball ricochet off the crossbar. NorthEast United now await this team in the playoffs and after both sides shared the spoils in the league phase with a win apiece, an interesting contest is on the cards.  

Image Credit – Official Indian Super League Twitter Page

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