Here are a few talking points from the past gameweek in the Indian Super League
The foregone gameweek in the Indian Super League witnessed ATK Mohun Bagan complete a double over Kerala Blasters, while Stuart Baxter’s term as Odisha FC head coach was terminated following a controversial remark.
Mumbai City FC suffered a rare blip following their 2-1 loss to NorthEast, but bounced back in style to beat Kerala Blasters. Mumbai (33) now maintain a six-point lead over ATK Mohun Bagan (27), as the competition for top four intensifies with at least eight teams in contention.
Here, we take a look at few talking points from the last week:
ATK Mohun Bagan complete double over Kerala
Kerala Blasters’ ongoing ISL season has been a tale of ‘so close, yet so far stories’. The Kochi-based side has conceded the most number of goals (27). Among all teams in the league stage so far, they have been lacking in quality defensive prowess and there are problems aplenty for them. And apart from all those, Kibu Vicuna’s men have been victims of several narrow defeats this season, while just managing to scrape past the likes of Jamshedpur FC (3-2) and Bengaluru FC (2-1).
Coming into the game on 31 January, Kerala only had a 25 percent win record over ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL altogether, with their last win coming in the previous season in January 2020.
But this time, they looked promising in the first-half, having dominated possession while also creating several chances.
The Blasters could have equalised as early as in the fifth minute had they capitalised on an error from ATK MB’s Spanish defender Tiri. Tiri’s clearance went undone, and was later intercepted by Blasters’ Jordan Murray, who cut it back to Sahal Abdul Samad, and after exchanging passes with Murray, however, Sahal’s final shot was blocked by former Blaster Sandhesh Jhinghan.
However, less than 10 minutes after this, in the 14th minute, the Blasters once again showcased attacking intent, when Sandeep Singh initiated a cross to the centre, where Gary Hooper accurately chested the ball down and curled the ball to the top-corner from 40 yards away.
Blasters then doubled their lead in the 51st minute through Costa Nhamoinesu in what looked like a scrappy goal, as he jumped over ATK MB defenders Tori and Pritam Kothal via a Sahal corner to just manage to find the net. The ball could have gone either way, but luck and fortune played a pivotal part in the second goal.
However, just a few minutes later, ATK MB improvised perfectly as in the 59th minute, a superb ball from Manvir Singh in the right flank outside the Kerala box, tossed the ball to debutant Marclinho, whose first touch was to head the ball down and then chipping the ball over the Kerala goalkeeper.
Later, in the 65th minute, Roy Krishna scored from the spot by taking advantage of a penalty, shooting past the right side of the keeper.
The major defensive lapse for the Blasters then came in the dying minutes of the game, when Blasters’ Prashanth failed to initiate a clearance as Roy Krishna raced past Sandeep and curled the ball into the far corner of the net to take the Bengal side home with all three points, and thereby complete a double over Kerala.
For Blasters, this loss was followed by another defeat to Mumbai City (2-1).
Odisha’s woes continue after Stuart Baxter termination
Odisha FC’s form in the current season has been less than impressive, with the bottom-dwellers having managed just one win all season (4-2 vs Kerala Blasters)
And to make matters worse, their manager Stuart Baxter’s contract was terminated following a deragotory ‘rape’ comment.
The incident happened following Odisha’s 1-0 defeat to Jamshedpur FC on 1 February, when Baxter a former coach of the South Africa football team, expressed disappointment over refereeing decisions during the match, particularly regarding a penalty.
In the 82nd minute, in what seemed like a deliberate foul, Odisha’s Brazilian striker Diego Mauricio was tripped over by Jamshedpur goalkeeper TP Rehenesh while going for goal but the referee just awarded a corner instead of a penalty.
This made the Scottish manager furious, and it made him say offensive comments on broadcaster Star Sports in a post-match interaction.
“You need decisions to go your way and they didn’t. I don’t know when we’re going to get a penalty. I think one of my players would have to rape someone or get raped himself if he was going to get a penalty,” the 67-year-old said.
He was then sacked on 3 February, and later it was announced that assistant coach Gerald Peyton would take over as interim boss.
Mumbai City suffer rare blip, then fight back
It seemed as if Mumbai City FC’s ongoing season came full circle when they suffered a rare blip following a 2-1 loss to NorthEast United, not only the team that beat them on the opening matchday, but also the only match they had lost up until 30 January.
Deshorn Brown doubled NorthEast United’s lead within the first 10 minutes, scoring in the sixth and ninth minute to leave MCFC appalled.
The highlight of Mumbai’s defeat was sloppy defending, and NorthEast’s aggressive attacking intent made the current table-toppers frustrated, while the Highlanders’ duo Khassie Camara and Apuia did not allow Mumbai’s Hugo Boumous and Ahmed Jahouh any time with the ball on the NEUFC half.
Mumbai then got one back when Adam Le Fondre latched onto Ogbeche’s touch to curve the ball into back of the net. However, their job was still undone.
Le Fondre even got a chance to equalise when his attempted shot found teammate Mehtab on the far post and got off a strong header, only for NEUFC keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury to make a stunning reflex and force into a corner.
This was only a rare blip for Mumbai, as they bounced back to beat Kerala 2-1 in the very next match.