The Indian Super League returned with a bang as last edition finalists Bengaluru FC’s dream of going through the season unbeaten went up in smoke.
Their tormentors, Mumbai City FC, have overseen a transformation of their own and have come a long way since that 5-0 thrashing at the hands of FC Goa early in the season. Eelco Schattorie’s NorthEast United also overcame a stiff resistance from basement dwellers Chennaiyin FC to record a crucial victory to put some daylight between themselves and Jamshedpur FC in fifth spot in the top four race.
The Red Miners picked up a creditable point against Goa, only the second goal-less draw in the whole of Sergio Lobera’s reign at the Gaurs.
Clinical Mumbai City
Mumbai City rode on Paulo Machado’s strike to get full points against Bengaluru. In the process, Jorge Costa’s Islanders went top of the ISL table on account of more goals scored (21 to BFC’s 18), having the same goal difference (+9) and points (27) as the Blues.
The absence of Miku in attack is hurting Carles Cuadrat’s side and it has shown in their return in front of goal. In their last six matches, Bengaluru have scored two or more goals only once, which have yielded three victories but also two draws and a defeat.
The Bengaluru attack in their previous six matches had failed to score two just once. The Venezuelan’s absence up front has robbed them of a focal point through which attacks flow. Against Mumbai City, Kean Lewis started up front along with Udanta Singh and Sunil Chhetri.
As for the hosts, the win was a just reward for a side which had troubled Bengaluru in their away fixture this season. At the Kanteerava stadium, a 10-man Mumbai City had pushed the hosts and arguably created the better chances in a 1-1 draw.
This victory puts them seven points ahead of Jamshedpur with 15 to play for. The play-off spot is far from assured with three away games left and four of their five play-off chasing counterparts yet to be faced.
For Bengaluru, panic stations will not be entered yet but Mumbai City are a potential final opponent. After missing out on an AFC Cup spot last year, making the top four will be the least of their ambitions.
Profiligate FC Goa
Goa will be disappointed with their draw against Jamshedpur. They created chances and took 13 shots, yet did not have a goal to show for their efforts against Cesar Ferrando’s team.
Ahmed Jahouh was left out and Edu Bedia was pushed deep. Coro is the main man up front for Goa but the Spaniard Bedia has been in scintillating form this season and brings more creativity to the table than Hugo Boumous does.
Bedia’s versatility meant that he was chosen to take Jahouh’s spot with the Moroccan Boumous taking up an advanced position. Too often, Coro dropped deep and created opportunities for the triumvirate of Boumous, Brandon Fernandes and Jackichand Singh, that were not taken.
It is too early to suggest that Sergio Lobera does not know his best eleven, but their form over the last five games, with just one win, suggests that they have struggled to get the best out of their attacking power.
Jamshedpur will consider the draw as a good point earned and one that keeps them in touch with Goa in the fourth and final play-off spot. The returns of Michael Soosairaj and Sergio Cidoncha from injuries are positives to be earned from a difficult away game.
ATK, also in the race, know that splitting points would help but came out second best in a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters. The Blasters, under new head coach Nelo Vingada, could have bagged the three points but had to settle to settle for a point after a 89th minute own goal by Gerson Vieira. The draw will come as little relief for a side which has failed to win a single home game in 2018.