There’s just one game week left before the league stage of the 2019-’20 Indian Super League season finally comes to a close. Three playoff spots have already been decided but there was a new twist to the race for the top position.
In what was the shocker of the week, a listless ATK were outgunned by Chennaiyin FC as Antonio Habas’ side relinquished the top spot and allowed FC Goa to leapfrog them.
Defending champions Bengaluru FC’s chances of finishing second on the table were also dashed after they were stunned by Kerala Blasters, who jumped to seventh. Odisha FC, Mumbai City FC and two-time winners Chennaiyin FC are now in a battle for the last playoff spot.
Hyderabad FC’s place at the bottom was confirmed after an injury-time goal from Jamshedpur FC striker Sumeet Passi denied them their second victory.
After another enthralling week of action, here are the talking points from the ISL:
Golden boot race heats up
ATK’s Roy Krishna found the net yet again as he continues to lead the goalscoring charts, extending his tally to 14 for the season.
FC Goa’s Ferran Corominas and Kerala Blasters’ striker Bartholomew Ogbeche both netted braces to move joint-second in that list with 13 goals each. Chennaiyin FC hitman Nerijus Valskis was close to scoring a blank for the second straight game until he found the net in added time against ATK with a delightful lob from 25-yards and took his tally to 13.
Krishna, Ogbeche, Corominas and Valskis are the only men to have reached double figures this season, while Corominas and Ogbeche have achieved the feat for the second season running.
After missing two games on the trot, Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri, the top-scoring Indian is one short of reaching ten goals for the season but has a lot to of catch-up to do once the playoff stages commence.
Something to cheer for Kerala Blasters
Eelco Schattorie is a man of his words. At the pre-match press conference, the former NorthEast United gaffer remarked that he was aware of how to defeat Bengaluru FC, a team Kerala Blasters had not beaten in three seasons.
Generally mocked for his knack of making excuses, Schattorie has been a constant target of trolls but on Saturday, the Dutchman had the final laugh.
Despite what has been an underwhelming season after the failing to qualify for the playoffs, Kerala Blasters signed off from Kochi in style with a comeback victory against the defending champions.
Bengaluru FC were far from their best but Schattorie’s tactics were spot on – taking the game to them and nullifying Carles Cuadrat’s counter-attacking approach to a great extent as the Blues were toothless in front of goal.
The victory in Kochi didn’t just restore pride but against opponents of such stature, Schattorie also showed the Manjapadda supporters and the Blasters faithful what he’s capable of delivering come next season.
Passi party in Hyderabad
At a time when Indian strikers are getting little to no playing time, Sumit Passi seems content playing any role at Jamshedpur FC as long as he is not warming the bench.
While Passi has struggled for regular game-time as a striker this season with competition for places up front, forced injuries and suspensions have seen him take up an unusual position as full-back (both left and right) in Antonio Iriondo’s lineup for the last two matches.
It is a switch Iriondo is unlikely to persist with, given how the team has struggled defensively due to poor form and injuries. They are winless in their last five games and have lost seven matches this season.
Against Hyderabad, they were staring at an eighth defeat until Passi found the net in added time. This was his first goal in more than a year. A soft header from a set-piece was enough to prove that Passi hasn’t lost his goalscoring instincts regardless of the position he might play in.
When Jamshedpur FC host FC Goa in their final game, could he be the one to spoil the party again?
Who will take fourth place?
With three of the playoff spots booked, there’s just one place left and three contenders. A month ago, Odisha FC were the front-runners to finish fourth but three straight losses against the big three – ATK, FC Goa and Bengaluru FC – saw them slip down the pecking order.
That allowed Mumbai City to reclaim the coveted spot but after losing to FC Goa earlier this week, the outcome of the final playoff spot could likely be decided at the Mumbai Football Arena, when the Islanders welcome Chennaiyin FC.
Mumbai City (26 points) can seal their play-off berth if they manage to take three full points against the visitors on Friday. Chennaiyin (25 points), on the other hand, have a game in hand, and even if they manage a draw against the Islanders, they will have a chance to seal the top four spot with a win over ninth-placed NorthEast United in their final game.
The chances for Odisha FC to make their way back also appear bleak as their fate depends on the results in other matches. Josep Gombau’s side will have to get the three points against Kerala Blasters and hope for both Mumbai City and Chennaiyin to drop points.