ISL 2017-18: From Bengaluru FC's rampant show to foreign stars ruling the roost, talking points from Week 2
Bengaluru FC established their supremacy, goalkeepers came under the scanner and foreign stars earned their bread in an action-packed second week of the ISL
The second week of the Indian Super League, unlike the opening one, didn't take long to come to life. After two drab goalless draws marred the start of the new campaign, the second week started off with a cracker. Delhi Dynamos came out on top in a five-goal thriller against FC Pune City to set the tone for the rest of the week. There were goals again in the second game, but it was one-way traffic at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai, where the home side romped to 3-0 win over NorthEast United.
The goals however dried up when action moved to Kochi where Kerala Blasters drew a blank again when former manager Steve Coppell brought his Jamshedpur FC side to the southern state. The encounter that ended in frustration for both sides, was followed by a humdinger in Mumbai that had plenty of late drama and hint of controversy as Mumbai City FC eked out a battling win over the much-dominant FC Goa.
The week commenced with ten goals being scored on Sunday that saw Bengaluru FC cement their spot at the top of the table with a 4-1 win over high-flying Dynamos shortly after FC Pune City stunned defending champions ATK in their first game back at the Salt Lake stadium.
As the players enjoy the two-day break after an action-packed week, here are the top talking points from Week 2:
Rampant Bengaluru FC lay down early marker
Bengaluru FC's entry into the ISL was greeted with much fanfare, and the Blues have justified every bit of the hype. Having blanked last year's semi-finalists Mumbai City FC in their first game, Bengaluru FC were expected to be tested by a Delhi Dynamos side that recorded an impressive away win against FC Pune City. But the visitors struggled to live with the home side's attacking flair all evening, conceding four goals.
The Dynamos enjoyed greater possession (54 percent) in the game, made 88 more passes and had 84 touches extra compared to Bengaluru, but Albert Roca's men were lethal going forward. They ended the evening with 12 shots on target compared to Delhi's three. The Blues who have been playing together for the last three months due to their AFC Cup commitments have certainly profited from it and have looked the sharpest among all the sides in the competition so far.
Bengaluru FC are the only team with a hundred percent record in the league and sit pretty at the top of the table. Even at this early stage, the Blues seem to have laid down an early marker.
Foreign stars step up to the plate
The number of foreigners that an ISL team could field was reduced from six to five for the ongoing season, but in Week 2, the foreign players continued to rule the roost in the ISL. Out of the 21 goals that were scored during the week, 16 were netted by overseas players. FC Pune City's Marcelinho scored twice and assisted one to help his team thrash ATK in their own backyard, while Raphael Augusto netted once and made another in Chennaiyin FC's 3-0 thumping of NorthEast United. For leaders Bengaluru, Erik Paartalu scored a brace, while Miku, the most expensive foreign player in the league also got on the scoresheet.
Mumbai City FC also needed their foreign stars Everton and Thiago Santos to fire them past FC Goa, while Paulinho Dias and Matias Mirabaje inspired the Dynamos to victory over Pune. Kerala-Jamshedpur clash ended goalless, and the Blasters' foreign shot-stopper Paul Rachukba had a big part to play in preventing Blasters from going down at home. The Indian players have impressed in patches, but the overseas stars have truly led the charge for their respective sides.
Goalkeepers make the difference
The second week of the ISL saw the goalkeepers proving to be decisive factors in the final outcome of the games, both in a positive and negative way. The game between Mumbai and Goa was the strongest case of men between the sticks having their a big influence.
Laxmikant Kattimani, who was hailed as the "best Indian goalkeeper" by coach Sergio Lobera ahead of the season, made two big errors that led to Mumbai's goals. The first one was more glaring of the two as Kattimani's clearance hit onrushing Mumbai striker Everton Santos to rebound into the net. At the other end though, Amrinder Singh produced a string of saves to stop a dominant FC Goa from running away with the game.
For Kerala, Rachukba's efforts helped them keep a second straight clean sheet, while Jamshedpur FC's Subrata Pal matched him save to save to help Jamshedpur FC to another point away from home.
ATK's Debjit Majumder though had a relatively erroneous evening in goal as his positioning for two of FC Pune City's goals in the 4-1 loss was questionable.
Were FC Goa unlucky to lose at Mumbai?
FC Goa failed to reproduce their opening-game result despite putting in an impressive performance against Mumbai City FC. While goalkeeper Kattimani was largely at fault for both the goals that they conceded, the Goans were particularly unhappy about the linesman who disallowed their goal from Coro in the second half. The strike would have been one of the candidates for the goal of the season, had it not been ruled out for offside, but more importantly it would have pulled The Gaurs level in the game with plenty of time for them to win it.
Replays showed the linesman was wrong to raise his flag, and although FC Goa, equalised few minutes after the incident, the manner of the goal that exemplified FC Goa's philosophy, would have been the perfect tonic for Lobera's men to launch a late assault at the Mumbai goal. However, in the end the Goans who also rattled the woodwork a couple of times in the game, and forced several saves off Mumbai keeper Amrinder, had to leave empty handed. The general feeling in the FC Goa dressing room and among their several fans in the stands was that The Gaurs deserved to at least get a point from the encounter. Would that refereeing decision changed what transpired thereafter? Maybe, maybe not.
Mockery of NorthEast United fan grabs attention
NorthEast United endured a tough evening at the Marina Arena against Chennaiyin FC as they went down 3-0 to the 2015 champions. But it were the incidents in the stands that grabbed all the attention. A female fan of the Highlanders was mocked and heckled by a man, seemingly a Chennaiyin supporter. Videos of the incident went viral on social media and the happenings were condemned by fans, players and most importantly both the teams involved.
Mumbai City FC's fan group also displayed a banner condemning the behaviour a day later during their team's game against FC Goa. The overwhelming support that the visiting fan received prompted quick action against the offenders and Chennai police arrested two city-based youngsters who were involved in the harassment.
While it is wrong to judge an entire fanbase on one such incident, the club, the fan groups, and every fan that goes to the any stadium to watch the game must accept a responsibility to ensure such incidents don't take place which deflect the limelight away from the football
Football brings people of different races, classes and nationalities together. There are several instances where football has united people of war-torn region and soothed troubled masses. There is no place for any kind of hooliganism or racism in the beautiful game anywhere in the world, and there never will be.
Stewart is freshly arriving from a Rangers squad that finished 2020-21 season unbeaten on its way to the Scottish top division title.
The Antonio Habas-coached side, which didn't have much match practice, will start their Indian Super League season 8 against Kerala Blasters at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on 19 November.
Goals from Devendra Murgaokar, Muhammed Nemil and Brandon Fernandes in the first half along with Leander D'Cunha and Romario Jesuraj adding to the tally in the second half.