That's what the season three of the Indian Super League (ISL) has offered in plenty. Bottom teams have turned over those at the top, in-form teams have suddenly slipped into spirals of struggles, and past pedigree has counted for nothing. Mumbai City FC's 5-0 thrashing of Kerala Blasters at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday was one such occasion.
Mumbai who hadn't scored in their last two matches smashed five past what was the best defense in the league before kick-off. The win took Mumbai to the top of the ISL charts and on the brink of qualification for the semifinals, with the margin of the win boosting their chances massively.
However, forward Sunil Chhetri threw a word of caution to his team ahead of their remaining two games, highlighting the unpredictability of the competition. "It does a lot of good to the confidence, but we can’t be complacent. That’s the nature of the ISL. Any game against anyone doesn’t give you a plus point in the next game apart from morale boost," Chhetri told Firstpost in an exclusive chat after the game.
"We knew Kerala played well in the last two games at home, today they were beaten 5-0. Nobody would have predicted that. That doesn’t mean that Kerala is going to lose the next game or we are going to thrash our next opponents. Every game brings along a different challenge with it and every team is different. For sure we won’t be complacent. Nothing has been achieved yet," he added.
The forward who joined the side recently after his exploits in the AFC Cup with Bengaluru FC, stressed the importance of recovering well as the games come thick and fast at the business end of the season. "This game came very early, we didn’t train. We rested, then we did recovery and we played today. Now again the same thing. Tomorrow we rest, then recovery and then we play. But that’s the way it is and we know it. We have a lot of options which helps. No matter who plays we will give our best," the 32-year-old said after the win over Kerala Blasters.
Chhetri played as a lone striker and worked tirelessly often creating space for Diego Forlan and Matias Defederico to exploit. Forlan was the biggest beneficiary of that as he scored the season's first hattrick. The Indian captain was all praise for his captain and hailed Forlan's involvement in the matters.
Apart from the fact that Forlan is a world class striker, he's very involved. You might not see a lot of foreign super stars come here and be so involved on the field and off the field. He keeps talking to the players. He makes sure he's there in the training, every gym session and he's so dedicated. That's something which is very commendable and something to learn from," Sunil Chhetri told Firstpost after the game.
"On the pitch, the touch never goes. He has that touch, his link-up play is very good, he's very clever and frankly it's easy to play with him," Chhetri added.
Coach Alexandre Guimares too was pleased to see his marquee player perform the way he did on Saturday and felt that he deserved a night like the one he enjoyed against Kerala. “Fantastic (performance from Forlan) I think and he is playing better and he is a guy who has come here to win, and it was also important for him to have a night like this,” he said.
Like Chhetri, Guimares too refused to draw many conclusions after his side's emphatic win and said his side must be prepared for another tough game on Wednesday when champions Chennaiyin come calling. “I think today the players got rewarded for playing well and it was just a matter of time (before Mumbai scored heavily), but we still have two more games to go,” 57-year-old Guimaraes told reporters after the match.
Steve Coppell happy that Kerala Blasters have fate in their own hands
Meanehile Kerala Blasters manager Steve Coppell urged his side to put the 'bad night' they endured in Mumbai to bed. He stressed on the importance of having their fate in their own hands with three games to go, but highlighted the need to put out a better showing when they entertain FC Pune City in Kochi.
"We are in a position where we have three games remaining now, so we are still in control of our destiny as regards to the semis and we don't have to depend on anybody else and if we do our stuff we can be a factor but obviously we have got to play better than we did tonight.” Coppell told reporters in Mumbai.
The former Manchester United winger felt his side was at the receiving end of the Mumbai attack that threatened to score many goals on more occasions than one in the past and felt his side needed get that result out of their system. "It's pointless dwelling on it for too long as we have a massive game next week and we have got to do our best but credit to Mumbai. You know they have got some sensational players and I watched a few of their recent games where they threatened to score a lot of goals and it was very unfortunate for us that we suffered.” he said.
Mumbai City FC play their next game at home against Chennaiyin on Wednesday, while Kerala Blasters will welcome FC Pune City to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Kochi where they will be looking to make the most of their home advantage.