The Indian Super League is fast approaching its half-way mark and the table is just about starting to take shape.
The top four teams currently occupying the semi-final qualification spots are separated by just two points. Another group of three teams divided by a point sit three points adrift of the leading pack. After that come the bottom three teams, still very much in the semi-final contention, but far from showing any kind of form to achieve that position at the end of the season.
The last round in the ISL saw just four games with Chennaiyin FC’s game against NorthEast United in Guwahati had to be postponed due to protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Assam capital.
There were no such troubles in Pune though – Odisha’s adopted home – where the home side finally posted their first win on their own patch. It wasn’t an easy ride by any means as they edged out the bottom side Hyderabad FC 3-2 at the Balewadi stadium.
A couple of days later Kerala Blasters’ winless streak was extended to seven matches but Eelco Schattorie’s men did well to secure a 2-2 draw against Jamshedpur FC in Kochi after being 2-0 down.
FC Goa emerged winners in the biggest game of the week as they displaced ATK in pole position after beating them 2-1 at Fatorda. However, the shock of the season came a day later at the Sree Kanteerava stadium where visitors Mumbai City FC, winless in six games snapped Bengaluru FC’s undefeated streak this season with a dramatic 3-2 victory.
There were no clean sheets in this round as the strike forces ruled the roost. As we head into another round of ISL action, here are some key takeaways from the previous round.
Away kings Mumbai City FC
The biggest story of the week was Mumbai City FC’s triumph over defending champions Bengaluru FC that ended the hosts’ 13-game unbeaten streak at the Sree Kanteerava stadium. The Blues had not lost at their fortress since Chennaiyin FC beat them there in the 2017-18 final.
However, Jorge Costa’s men who were winless in six games coming into the game stunned the champions in emphatic fashion. After taking the lead through Subhashish Bose in the twelfth minute, Mumbai missed a chance to double the lead before half-time when Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved Mohamed Larbi’s spot-kick.
Bengaluru levelled matters just after the interval before Diego Carlos restored Mumbai’s lead in the 77th minute. Sunil Chhetri equalised from the spot a minute from time before Rowllin Borges poked home the winner from a corner in stoppage time.
The win meant Mumbai City FC now have the best away record in the division with nine points from five matches. It is a welcome shift for a side that had to wait till the fag end of the second campaign to record their first-ever win on the road in the ISL.
For Bengaluru, the Mumbai bogey continued. In 14 matches they have played against teams from the financial capital, they have recorded only four wins so far in all competitions.
It was a week for dead-ball specialists to have a big impact as teams scored the majority of the goals in the past week from set-plays.
Out of the 17 goals in the last four matches, ten came from set-piece situations.
It’s a number that no manager will be happy to see considering how much the coaches are particular when it comes to defending during dead-ball situations.
Another coach that would not be too pleased with this figure would be national team coach Igor Stimac. The Indian team too have struggled to score from open play, netting 70% of their goals from set-plays.
With the pattern playing out in the domestic league as well, the Croatian would struggle to find a quick fix to the problem facing the Indian football team.
FC Goa make a statement
FC Goa’s season had been anything but a disaster before then league leaders ATK came calling to Fatorda. However, there were a few question marks about the confidence levels of Sergio Lobera’s men who had managed to rescue points only in the dying stage of certain games.
In addition, The Gaurs were winless against teams from the top half of the table.
However, FC Goa quelled any such concerns when they dished out a dominant display to see off a high-flying ATK.
Despite failing to make their supremacy count in a first half which they bossed, Goa stuck to their guns and were rewarded on the hour mark when Mourtada Fall headed home off a free-kick.
However, the hosts were dealt a blow when ATK equalised against the run of play just four minutes later. Goa though produced the perfect response to being pegged back by scoring straight from the kick-off through Ferran Corominas, who returned to the score sheet after coming back from injury.
Lobera’s men now sit on top of the pile with just one defeat in eight games. Having had to dig deep to get results in the first half of the season, the victory over ATK might just propel FC Goa into top gear.
Messi – Kerala’s own superstar
When you have Messi in your team, there’s little to worry about. Ask Kerala Blasters.
Yes, the Messi magic isn’t just restricted to Catalunya, there’s some happening in Kochi too. Kerala Blasters have their own superstar – Raphael Messi Bouli, the Cameroonian striker who has hit the ground running in the ISL.
The name may have caught the eye of football faithful in India at the beginning but by the end of the season, they are likely to remember him by his goals.
The Blasters are not having a good season, having won just once in eight matches. But their plight could have been far worse had it not been for Messi. On Friday, the Cameroonian scored a late brace to rescue a point for the Blasters at home against Jamshedpur.
This was a week after his goal had earned Kerala a point away to Mumbai City FC. With Bartholomew Ogbeche injured, Messi has shouldered the responsibility of scoring the goals. He has contributed to 50% of the Blasters’ goals this season, making him indispensable for Schattorie’s men.
The Blasters are without a win since opening day, and if that has to change, a certain Messi would have played a big part.