Jamshedpur FC sit in the driver’s seat at the end of the second week of the Indian Super League after two contrasting displays in their two games this week. They played Hyderabad FC off the park before digging in against defending champions Bengaluru FC to secure a point.
However, the pick of the games this week was in Guwahati where FC Goa and NorthEast United shared the spoils after a see-saw battle that had great quality on show.
Hyderabad FC got off to a winning start in their home city securing a fine win over Kerala Blasters in front of a good turnout in Hyderabad. After suffering two heavy losses and facing a deficit in their third game at the interval, the newcomers showed great powers of recovery to turn the result around and get off the mark for the season.
Odisha FC the other team without a point going into the week secured an emphatic 4-2 win at Mumbai City FC in a display of open, expansive football that pleased coach Josep Gombau.
Elsewhere, ATK backed their 5-0 success at home with a creditable 1-0 away win over struggling Chennaiyin FC to remain on the coattails of the leaders.
Champions Bengaluru FC, still without a win this season, earned two valuable points on the road at FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC – two teams that appear to be their strongest challengers this season.
There were two more goals scored this week compared to the opening week but four fewer clean sheets kept as the matches turned out to be a lot more competitive.
Here are some key takeaways from the second week:
Referees continue to flounder
The performances of the men with the whistle came under scrutiny in the opening week of the ISL, but things got worse in the games that followed.
This week, the referees made even more glaring errors, some of which were obvious to the naked eye in real time.
In the game between Goa and Bengaluru, the linesman seemed completely out of sorts, wrongly adjudging Manvir Singh offside twice in the game. In one instance, not only was Manvir behind the final Bengaluru defender but was also in his own half.
To add to the errors in that game, the referees called the game 30-40 seconds before the minimum amount of added time was played. On realising his mistake, the referee tried to call the players back onto the pitch but it was too late as some had already walked off. Quite embarrassing.
In the Chennaiyin-ATK game, the referee failed to award the visitors a quite clear penalty when Nerijus Valskis rammed into Roy Krishna from behind without getting anywhere close to the ball.
On the following day, Mumbai City were wrongly awarded a penalty when the referee adjudged Odisha FC goalkeeper Francsico Dorronsoro to have fouled Mumbai City forward Serge Kevyn.
Many in the ground were dumbfounded at the decision and those in the commentary box were equally amazed. Although Kevyn got to the ball first, he had no control over the ball that ran out of the playing area when Dorronsoro collided with him.
In Goa’s game against NorthEast United in Guwahati, the visitors who had a man sent off when the play stopped were awarded the free-kick when the play restarted. Goa went on to score from it to level the score in the game. The mini-brawl with the match officials that followed perhaps led to the confusion.
FC Goa dig deep
FC Goa showed what they are all about in their 3-0 thrashing of Chennaiyin in their ISL opener. They kept the ball, moved it with great pace and precision and dominated their visitors.
However, this week we saw a different side to FC Goa that wasn’t quite on show in the previous seasons. Although the Guars failed to pick up a win in their two games this week, they did well to eke out draws in both encounters.
Bengaluru came to Fatorda with a plan to thwart Goa’s passing game and succeeded for large parts of the game, but Sergio Lobera’s men dug deep to rescue a point from the game in stoppage time.
In their second game, Goa were pegged back by a spirited NorthEast United in the second half after taking the lead in the contest. They also saw Seiminlen Doungel sent off in the dying minutes but still managed to find an equaliser from a set-piece – a route not usually associated with Lobera’s FC Goa.
So, a week that could have ended with two defeats against fellow competitors for the top four places has culminated with Goa picking up two vital points to stay ahead. Clearly, this Goan team is more than just flair.
Indian players make an impact
The opening week of the ISL was about the foreign players stamping their authority on the competition, the second week saw Indian players rise to the fore for their respective teams.
In the first week, only two out of the 18 goals scored were netted by Indians. That count went up to eight goals out of the 20 scored this week.
The week was especially good for young Indian attackers. The pick of the Indian players was Jamshedpur FC’s Farukh Choudhary who was a constant menace for the Hyderabad defence. He scored one and assisted the second as Jamshedpur won 3-1.
Out of seven, five man-of-the-match winners were Indian, compared to just three last week. Apart from Farukh, young Jerry Mawhmingthanga dazzled for Odisha FC with a goal and two assists against Mumbai City FC. Another youngster, Redeem Tlang continued his goalscoring spree at home with a beautifully-taken goal against FC Goa that almost proved to be a match-winner.
Among the more experienced stars, Udanta Singh who received criticism for lack of output in front of the goal after the 0-0 draw against NorthEast United, scored a beautiful goal against Goa to silence his detractors. Subrata Pal rolled back the years to produce a goalkeeping masterclass for Jamshedpur FC against Bengaluru and preserve his side’s unbeaten run.
Defending champions Bengaluru FC have neither won nor lost a game so far this season. They are the lowest scorers in the league but have also conceded the fewest goals this season after being involved in two 0-0 draws this season already.
A peek into some of their numbers show why the lack of goals in their games is not surprising. Bengaluru have the fourth-lowest tally for shots this season, 16 fewer than leaders Jamshedpur. However, Cuadrat’s men have also conceded fewest goalscoring opportunities to their opponents with goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu having to make just five saves this season that is the lowest tally for any team so far.
So, have Bengaluru FC become a boring team to watch this season? If you go purely by the statistics, it will be hard to say otherwise, but if you tracked their games closely, you would know that Bengaluru FC are a tad unlucky not to have won a game or scored more goals.
Subrata Pal aside, the points table and other leaderboards could have looked quite different for Cuadrat’s men. Thus, it is too early to judge Bengaluru or label them boring. Surely, there’s more to come from the champions.
For Chennaiyin FC, it seems last season never left. Having finished bottom of the table last year, the two-time champions once again find themselves at the bottom of the charts after three games.
They have just one point on the board this season and are yet to score a goal.
But a look at their games and some of their attacking numbers, makes you wonder how Chennaiyin – had the second-most number of shots (47) in the division – haven’t had better results, or at least a handful of goals to their name.
Poor finishing, bad luck and wrong refereeing calls have all combined to add to the former champions’ predicament.
After a poor campaign last year, time is perhaps running out for coach John Gregory to turn the results around. As cursed as they might appear at this point, their prolonged struggles don’t do any favours for their beleaguered manager.
With a trip to the defending champions in the offing before the league heads into an international break, things may not fall in place for Chennaiyin any time soon.