If FC Goa had assumed the fight to maintain their lead at the top spot in the 2019-’20 standings would be a cakewalk, they were mistaken.
In what was the blockbuster clash of the week, another home victory for ATK saw them usurp FC Goa and grab the top position in the table despite being level on points (24).
Elsewhere in Mumbai, defending champions Bengaluru FC suffered a huge dent to their hopes of making it to the summit after a shoddy defensive display against Mumbai City, who boosted their top four chances.
Aridane Santana was on the scoresheet again with a brace as Odisha FC consolidated their spot on fourth place with a comeback win against stuttering Hyderabad. Jamshedpur FC and Chennaiyin FC also nicked out crucial victories to stay in the playoff race.
With another enthralling gameweek coming to a close, here’s a look at the 13th game week of the ISL unfolded:
Mumbai City do the double over Bengaluru
Mumbai City became the first team in history to complete a double over Bengaluru FC thanks to defensive errors from the Blues. The result helped the Islanders stay hot on Odisha FC’s heels in fifth place, just two points behind.
It was an ill-tempered match where the visitors brought about their own downfall, looking toothless in attack and defensively wobbly.
Despite starting out brightly, Bengaluru FC were the first to concede and it came against the run of play after a Gurpreet Singh howler.
Sunil Chhetri was unlucky to have his equaliser wrongly ruled by the referee just before the break but the failure to convert chances cost them dearly as they registered just one shot on target.
Another Harmanjot Khabra blunder saw Amine Chermiti double the advantage from Mumbai City, who never took their foot off the pedal and grinded out another massive win.
Bengaluru still boast the best defensive record in the league but if their performance in Mumbai was anything to go by, the chances of topping the table again look bleak.
ATK rise to the occasion
After entering the new year with a slender three-point advantaged the top, FC Goa have slumped to two losses from their last three games.
The biggest match of the gameweek certainly lived up to the hype and ATK in all right showed, why they won’t settle for anything less. With 29 shots in total, both teams had a go at each other and despite Goa trailing 0-1, the result could have gone either way until the 88th minute when Jayesh Rane stabbed the winner from close range.
After a tightly-contested first half, a well-taken set-piece header from one of the unlikeliest sources in Pritam Kotal has put ATK in the driving seat but FC Goa kept knocking on the door. Despite Jackichand Singh and Brandon Fernandes both sitting out due to suspension, the Gaurs kept creating chances.
However, for a side who has scored the most goals this season and in the history of the league, FC Goa looked like a shadow of themselves, lacking the killer istinct whenever crosses were delivered in the box.
Defensively, they left gaps open in midfield and Roy Krishna was the one to captitalise, making runs to the bylines and opening up space for strike partner Justin and other attackers to exploit.
ATK’s leading scorer turned creator, setting up two goals on the night as the Goa defense rugged with his pace and trickery.
Castel returns with a bang
Back on the field and back among the goals, striker Sergio Castel reinvigorated Jamshedpur’s bid for sneaking into the playoffs after a comeback victory over Kerala Blasters. The match was a see-saw battle that had plenty of drama as Eelco Schattorie’s Blasters side blew away their lead twice.
Castel had last found the net in late November, and since then, Jamshedpur FC had failed to win even a single match from six games. But coming on a substitute after his injury layoff, Castel showed why he was missed so much.
Although Bartholomew Ogbeche restored Kerala’s lead despite going down to ten men, they were the ones on the back foot. Castel made an instant impact upon coming on, converting a penalty.
Kerala were guilty of conceding another late goal when captain Ogbeche diverted the ball into his own net but Castel’s threat had them under the pump.
Castel’s fine cameo piled more on Kerala, who have dropped the most points from winning positions this season than any other side (12).