It was a subdued game week seven in the 2019-’20 Indian Super League. The five matches this week just witnessed nine goals. Two games ended in a draw as the trend of late goals continued.
ATK consolidated their spot at the top of the standings with a commanding victory against NorthEast United while big guns Bengaluru FC and FC Goa also nicked narrow victories to stay in the top four race.
The bottom half of the standings hardly witnessed any changes with struggling Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters sharing the spoils. Hyderabad FC continued to reel at the bottom of the pile with Odisha FC and Chennaiyin FC also failing to revive their fortunes.
Meanwhile, Jamshedpur dug deep to keep their unbeaten home run intact as Owen Coyle was denied a winning start on his Chennaiyin FC stint.
As the ISL approaches the half-way mark, here are some key takeaways from the previous week:
Bengaluru banish away-day blues
Bengaluru FC were made to slog it out against struggling Odisha and the winner came from one of the unlikeliest sources, defender Juanan. The Blues, however, put an end to their nine-match winless run away from home in the process. Despite taking the lead in the first half, the visitors were under the cosh for the majority of the second half and it took some fine saves from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to keep them in the game.
There’s no denying that the defending champions haven’t been at their best in the initial phase of the league. After registering draws in their opening three matches, the Blues have ascended to the second spot in the table but offensively, the goals have dried up.
Carles Cuadrat’s men have scored just seven goals in as many games, the fourth-lowest in the league and also have the worst conversion rate in front of goal.
Assist king Brandon
For both club and country, midfielder Brandon Fernandes is proving to be an indispensable asset. Particularly, with his threat from dead-ball situations.
The Gaurs seemed to be heading for another draw on Sunday as Hyderabad held fort but Fernandes played a big part in providing the breakthrough for his side, supplying an inch-perfect cross for substitute Manvir Singh as FC Goa returned to winning ways.
Playing a bit higher up the field, the local boy looked lively alongside Hugo Boumous and kept the play ticking for the visiting team. Fernandes grabbed his fourth assist of the campaign, the most by any midfielder.
ATK hit top gear
ATK are proving the team to beat at the moment in the ISL. Given the ridiculous squad depth that they possess, it is hard to pick out any flaws in Antonio Habas’ team who are on cloud nine. They snapped NorthEast United’s unbeaten run on Friday and put them by the sword with another brutal attacking display.
ATK have netted the most goals in the league (15) and though the Australian duo of Roy Krishna and David Williams have stolen their limelight, they have also been watertight at the back, conceding five goals in all (the second-best behind Bengaluru FC).
They face FC Goa and Bengaluru FC in their next three games but given the start they’ve had, the table-toppers will be brimming with confidence.
Mumbai City’s defensive woes
How big has Lucian Goian’s departure cost the Islanders?
Mumbai City kept the joint-highest clean sheet last season (8) but in contrast to this season, they have managed just two, both coming in their opening two games. They have shipped in 13 goals from five games since then.
While Jorge Costa has placed his trust in an all-Indian backline, the return of centre-back Mato Grgic against Kerala Blasters didn’t help them produce a clean sheet, although they conceded just one goal.
For a team known to be tactically drilled and hard to break down, Costa needs to find a quick fix for a Mumbai City defense that has massive holes at the moment.
Baptism by fire for Owen Coyle
Conceding late goals have become a habit for Chennaiyin FC lately. Even a new managerial change couldn’t bring an end to that on Monday as Jamshedpur FC fought back with a late goal to salvage a point against the two-time winners.
The goal was harsh for the visitors given that Issac Vanmalsawma’s equaliser struck Farukh Choudhary’s hand before taking a deflection and going into the net but moreover Chennaiyin FC paid the price for a passive display in the second half despite starting brightly.
As predecessor John Gregory said, lack of ruthlessness was what cost Chennaiyin FC last year. And the major task for new manager Coyle might just be rediscovering that if they harbour any hopes of reaching the top four.