The four games over the weekend had entertainment aplenty as Bengaluru finished the weekend top of the ISL. Let’s take a look at each of the games:
The Avram Grant effect
Avram Grant in his role as a ‘technical advisor’ which almost definitely means head coach worked his magic as NorthEast United pulled off a surprise win at home to FC Goa. Both halves followed the same pattern as NorthEast came flying out the traps for both of them almost with a point to prove now that Joao de Deus is no longer in charge and they have someone new to impress. Marcinho put NorthEast in the lead just after the twenty-minute mark and in the preview for the game, I made a remark about them needing a stroke of luck to take the lead and that’s exactly what they got. Take nothing away from Marcinho, because his first touch was exquisite, but his shot took a deflection then eventually went in off both posts, just what doctor Avram ordered.
Unfortunately for NorthEast, their lead was short lived due to some slack defending which Grant will be eager to address moving forward. A nothing ball was played into the area and it was completely misjudged by the NorthEast back line meaning it fell nicely to Arana, who still had a lot of work to do, but he managed to put it beyond Paramba, who really should have done better. From that point onwards in the first half, it was all FC Goa and they really should have done better with the pressure, but due to a combination of bad finishing and good defending, the scores were level at halftime.
Grant must have put a rocket up NorthEast’s arse during the break because much like the first half, they came out all guns blazing and with only seven second-half minutes played, they did what Goa failed to do in the first half and made their pressure count. Marcinho turned provider as he played in Seminlen who after taking what seemed to be a rather heavy first touch, finished like a seasoned pro. He nonchalantly chipped the keeper as he took full advantage of Kattimani rushing off his line when if he had stayed put, it would have been a lot difficult for NorthEast to score. Ah well, such are the fine margins where games are won and lost.
Goa controlled the second half in a similar fashion to that of the first, but for all of their possession, they didn’t really do a great deal with it. Lobera will look at the fact it was their second game in only a matter of days but he had a full squad to pick from so if he is looking for reasons then perhaps he need look no further than in the mirror.
Final Score: NorthEastUnited 2-1 FC Goa
Coppell true to his word
Coppell said in his pre-match press conference that his side were going to look to attack Mumbai and I, like many others imagine, ridiculed him and went “Heard that before, Steve”. I will hold my hands up and say I was wrong because Coppell did just that and the game with Mumbai produced as many goals as there had been all season in Jamshedpur’s games. The opening period was all about Coppell’s men but it was Guimaraes’ side who drew first blood when the tricky Thiago Santos practically took on all of Jamshedpur’s defence and scored, it was a cracking goal.
Jamshedpur made two changes to the side that lost at home Chennaiyin as Bikey and Jairu were withdrawn for Edathodika and Azuka respectively; you have to think that if Bikey was on the pitch, Thiago wouldn’t have danced through the backline with as much ease as he did plus, I had him as my one to watch, so it deserves you right, Steve. The other change he made in bringing in Azuka actually turned out quite well as he levelled for Jamshedpur with the finish of a poacher just before half-time.
Before the referee blew for the interval, Azuka was at it again as a Jamshedpur team who hadn’t scored at home all season now had two in the space of a few minutes. Jerry was again the orchestrator as he went past Ruidas and put it on a plate for Azuka who must have thought it was his birthday with the all the chances he was having, however, his birthday isn’t until May, so he will have to make do with scoring a brace.
At the beginning of the second half Azuka nearly had his hat-trick but he was prevented by some lacklustre finishing and some good work from the Mumbai keeper but after that, Mumbai got a foothold back in the game and in the 70th minute the away side were level. Unsurprisingly, it was the Santos double act that created and scored the goal as Everton set up Thiago once more and again, Thiago finished brilliantly to level the scores. Sadly, it was ended as a contest after that as Guimaraes was happy to settle for a point as Everton Santos was taken off in favour of a defender and that was the end of that. Still no home win for Coppell, but at least they’re scoring now.
Final Score: Jamshedpur 2-2 Mumbai City
Bengaluru go top with narrow win
Bengaluru’s game with ATK was always going to be decided by the finest of margins and as it happens, it was a moment of magic from India’s sweetheart, Sunil Chhetri, which made all the difference. I don’t think Sheringham made the right decision in leaving Ryan Taylor on the bench as I think him and Robbie Keane have formed a great relationship in the short time they’ve played together and Taylor was put on the bench because of the short turnaround in between games then you have to question why Keane started. Anyway, no point thinking about what might have been, let’s see how it the game panned out.
Albert Roca’s side started the stronger of the two as Miku, Juanan and Paartalu all had good chances for Bengaluru, however, it’s not to be said that ATK didn’t look dangerous on the counter and if Rupert had his shooting boots laced up properly ATK would have taken the lead. Chhetri’s goal was fantastic, although Sheringham will be disappointed as it came about as it was a misplaced pass which saw Chhetri pick the ball up thirty yards out and the rest was all about Chhetri as he picked his spot in the top corner and found it.
The goal just before halftime was undoubtedly a sucker punch for ATK and Sheringham decided to ring the changes at the break as he brought on my mate Ryan Taylor and Bipin. ATK dominated the beginning of the second half as Robbie Keane did everything but score as he was looking for his third goal in as many games but he just couldn’t find the back of the net and believe me, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
After Keane’s opportunities, the game settled down, which was ideal for Roca’s side as they were searching for their first win in three at home. There were a couple of half chances here and there, but nothing of any real note as Bengaluru went a point clear at the top of the ISL.
Final Score: Bengaluru 1-0 ATK.
Jeje maintains hot streak but Delhi have the last laugh
“You can’t really look past a home win in this game, but, the ISL loves throwing a curveball when you think you have a result sussed” – that is what I wrote about the Chennaiyin vs Delhi game and it is pretty much spot on. With NorthEast winning the day before, Delhi couldn’t really afford to lose as it would have left them four points behind NorthEast at the bottom of the table and whilst there are still quite a few games left, it would have been a psychological blow for Miguel Portugal and his side.
Chennaiyin were knocking on Delhi’s door, banging in fact, but they couldn’t find a way in as the opening goal of the game, against the run of play went to Delhi. Some non-existent marking gave David Ngaihte the perfect opportunity to get his first goal in Delhi Dynamos colours and he didn’t waste it as he headed home Sekar’s inch-perfect cross. It was top versus bottom and bottom went 1-0 up, we now had a game on our hands.
Now, if you have a player that has scored four goals in his last four starts, you’d make sure he didn’t have the chance to breathe, let alone shoot, pass or anything else, wouldn’t you? Not Delhi, oh no. Mihelic, who was preferred to Augusto again, put a tantalising ball right onto the head of Jeje who wasn’t going to miss from that far out; 1-1 just before halftime. The ascendancy was with Chennaiyin as the second half kicked off and it took just over five minutes for Jeje to get his second of the evening as he turned Chowdhury far too easily and finished with aplomb. 2-1.
Miguel Portugal would have been wondering what to do, where to turn. He had made two of his subs and not a lot was going on, so he had one last roll of the dice to give his side that injection needed to get them back into the game and he did what anyone would do in that situation as he picked ex-Den Haag man Guyon Fernandez to make the difference and boy oh boy did he do that. In the dying embers of the game, Fernandez, much like Ngaihte, got his first ever goal for the club as he put it away from close range to give Delhi a valuable point.
Final Score: Chennaiyin 2-2 Delhi Dynamos
Ten goals over four games isn’t bad going at all as Jamshedpur and NorthEast United doubled their goalscoring tally for the season. Let’s hope the next set of games are just as good as we approach the halfway point of the ISL season.