It's fair to say that after three weeks of football in the Indian Super League (ISL), no team has managed to stand out and impress with their performances. Newcomers Bengaluru FC tasted defeat against FC Goa while defending champions ATK are still searching for their first win of the tournament.
Inconsistency is plaguing FC Pune City as they lost 0-1 against Chennaiyin FC on Sunday after winning the previous two matches and Kerala Blasters are struggling to find goals as they managed to net only one goal in the three matches so far.
Striker Balwant Singh made his comeback from injury with two goals from two matches, but Mumbai City FC have failed to emerge winners in those matches. Delhi Dynamos' defensive lapses proved too costly as they lost their last two games in an embarrassing manner.
As the action shifts to the fourth week of the tournament, here are some of the talking points from week 3 of ISL:
Balwant's back with a bang
Over the last few months, Balwant has been in a terrific form. He made his comeback into the Indian squad and played a crucial role in the country's qualifying campaign for the AFC Asian Cup. But then, he had suffered an ankle injury and had to stay out of action for few weeks, missing out Mumbai's opening match in the new season.
Since his return from injury, Balwant scored two goals from three matches for Mumbai, including a crucial one against Kerala Blasters on Sunday to salvage a 1-1 draw.
Despite the injury lay-off, Balwant didn't lose his goal-scoring form and his threatening runs always troubled the opposition defenders. He scored a terrific goal against derby rivals Pune to give his team a deserving lead, but eventually, they lost the match 1-2 after an injury-time goal from Emiliano Alfaro.
In their next match, Mumbai fell behind the Blasters early on and were trailing for most of the match. Back to back defeats would've made life difficult for Alexandre Guimaraes' team, but Balwant ensured the team come back with at least one point from Kochi.
There's more than one way to look at Goa's 4-3 victory against Bengaluru. If it's seen as thrilling goalfest, it should also be seen as a match where defensive setups of both teams crumbled under pressure.
Goa are prone to defensive mishaps. In their first match against Chennaiyin, they conceded two goals, but emerged victorious in a five-goal thriller. In their next match against Mumbai, they conceded two more goals, and lost the tie 1-2.
However, it was surprising to see the usually steady Bengaluru defence falling apart. The centre-back duo of Juan Gonzalez and John Johnson constantly failed to mark striker Ferran Corominas, who exploited the mistakes and scored a brilliant hat-trick.
Delhi Dynamos' woes
Delhi, who started their campaign with an impressive 3-2 win against Pune, lost their way completely in the next two matches. Bengaluru hammered them 4-1 and that was followed by a 2-0 drubbing at the hands of NorthEast United last week.
Delhi's defence has been a problem for the team this season. The two goals they conceded against the Highlanders were arguably avoidable. The second goal was a result of a blunder from goalkeeper Albino Gomes.
Delhi and India right-back Pritam Kotal has been having an average tournament so far. His confidence was crushed yet again when NorthEast's Halicharan Narzary proved to be a handful throughout the match.
It's still a long season and Delhi have plenty of time to turn things around. Head coach Miguel Angel Portugal will have to quickly fix the problems and get his back to winning ways.
What's ailing ATK?
For a team coached by Teddy Sheringham and having Ashley Westwood as technical director, much was expected of them. Not to forget, they are also the defending champions, so after three win-less matches and the team lying at the bottom of the battle, it's safe to say that they have been very disappointing.
After suffering an embarrassing 1-4 defeat against Pune, they played out a frustrating goalless draw against newcomers Jamshedpur FC on Friday. It's ok to play not-so-attractive football and still carve out a win from somewhere, but ATK's play doesn't have an identity yet. It's been three games now and still, it's difficult to figure out what are Sheringham's plans.
To cut some slack on the head coach, ATK have been hampered by injuries to some of the key players. Robbie Keane, Jayesh Rane, Ashutosh Mehta, Anwar Ali, Nallapan Mohanraj and Carl Baker are all out and now there are reports that midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh will likely to miss the entire season due to a knee problem.
The next few matches are very important for ATK. They should find a way to win in order to stay in the hunt for a spot in the semi-final or else it will be too late.
The curious case of Dimitar Berbatov
Dimitar Berbatov came to India with a huge reputation. The former Manchester United man, who won Golden Boot award in Premier League, was expected to take the Blasters to the top and the league by storm. After three weeks, Kerala Blasters' are lying at seventh spot and there's no sign of a storm.
Thanks to Mark Sifenos, Kerala finally scored their first goal of the tournament in their third game, but the match ended in a 1-1 draw. After the tie, questions about Blasters' goal-scoring abilities started to make more noise.
It was pretty clear during the tournament that Berbatov will not play as an out and out striker but will enjoy a free role in Blasters' setup. To his credit, Berbatov has not been bad in his new role as the Bulgarian has been a threat when on the ball during last three matches.
But the lack of goals up front puts the spotlight on the question whether Berbatov needs to play as a forward for the Blasters.
“Berbatov has got different traits and I want my best players to get the ball as much as they can. If you compare Berbatov’s touches in the second game when compared to the first, it was a big, big difference," Blaster coach Rene Meulensteen said before the game against Mumbai.
Meulensteen has a point when he talks about Berbatov, but how long can he afford to stick by his strategy? What if Kerala struggle in the next game as well in terms of scoring goals? Can he resist the temptation of using Berbatov as a striker? It would be interesting to see what Meulensteen will do with regard to Berbatov and to change things for his team.
Published Date: Dec 05, 2017 04:00 pm | Updated Date: Dec 05, 2017 04:29 pm