ISL 2017-18: From Sunil Chhetri's stunner to NorthEast United's first home victory, talking points from week 8
Week eight of the ISL had its fair share of drama, despite four draws in six matches. Here's a look at few talking points from the week.
Week eight of the Indian Super League (ISL) had its fair share of drama despite four draws in six matches. It was also the week where India's familiar stars — Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored eye-pleasing goals. It was also the week where impressive FC Goa failed to be on the winning side on two occasions and it was also the week where Delhi Dynamos ended their losing streak, albeit not with a victory.
The week started on a very late note. ATK's match against the FC Goa at the Salt Lake Stadium was delayed by two hours and 45 minutes due to travel issues plaguing the visiting team. But it didn't take much time to see goals in the match as ATK's Robbie Keane scored in the fourth minute while FC Goa's Ferran Corominas grabbed the equaliser in the 24th minute. The match started on Wednesday and ended on Thursday with no more goals after Corominas' strike.
The 1-1 scoreline was also reflected in the next match between Kerala Blasters and FC Pune City. Marcelinho gave the visitors the lead in Kochi only for Mark Sifneos to cancel it in the next half. The scoreline did improve a little in Friday's match, where Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai City FC scored two goals each. After playing their match till the early hours of Thursday, FC Goa where back on the field on Saturday and suffered a 1-2 loss at the hands of NorthEast United, who clinched their first home win of the season, playing under new technical director Avam Grant.
Sunday belonged to India's Chettri and Jeje. Playing on his 27th birthday, Jeje scored a brace for Chennaiyin FC but the game ended 2-2 thanks to Delhi's last-minute equaliser from Guyon Fernandez. Sensational Chhetri scored a scintillating goal for Bengaluru FC and that was enough for them to beat the travelling ATK.
Before week nine gets underway this Wednesday, here are few talking points from match week eight:
Sunil Chhetri — Captain, leader, legend
How many times he has done it before and how many more times will he do it in the future? The 34-year-old collected a misplaced pass from ATK's defender outside the box and fired a missile to the top-right corner of goal, and despite diving, keeper Debjit Majumder had no chance from stopping the ball. The goal provided a timely reminder of Chhetri's class and also raised a pertinent question – what would have happened to Indian football if not for his services?
Bengaluru's coach perfectly summed up his skipper's night. "Sunil is an outstanding player. Till the time he scored the goal, he was not playing that good. But suddenly you see this is a different type of player. He suddenly appeared and scored a goal like that. It shows that he’s different in this kind of business," Albert Roca said.
That ability to pull out something special out of nothing is what defines Chhetri. Around the world, there are players who give up when having a bad day and there are those who don't even know when they are not at their best. It's obvious as to which kind Chhetri belongs, but it's also bit frightening, because right now, India don't have any other players of Chhetri's kind.
One stunner from Chhetri was enough for the match and Bengaluru ended up being winners in front of their passionate home fans. The three points put them at the top of the table as they now have won six games and lost three.
Jeje shines, but Chennaiyin's defence fails again
Talking about Chhetri, another important national team player, Jeje, became the top-scorer among Indians in the ISL. When he scored his second goal of the match against Delhi Dynamos, it looked like Jeje might celebrate his birthday with a perfect hat-trick. Sigh! If only life, or to be specific, football could have been so perfect. For the second goal, Chennai's defence was caught sleeping. After conceding an injury time goal against Kerala Blasters late December, they again did it against the Dynamos. A Twitter exchange summed up Chennai's defensive display of the night. When a question was asked about missing Chennai defenders in Delhi's second goal, a user replied that they might be enjoying the breeze at the Marina beach and instead of being on the field.
Pretty sure, nothing frustrates a team more than an conceding an injury-time goal. It was frustrating for the Chennai crowd who turned up in impressive numbers and it was frustrating for the team because they had the chance to pick up three points and end the week at the top of the table.
On the other hand, Delhi Dynamos must be relived to finally break their losing steak. It came at a cost of some horrible defending but a draw will give some confidence going into the future.
Sergio Lobera's FC Goa losing steam?
After getting off to a flyer, FC Goa's winless run now extends to three games, which includes two defeats and a draw. In their first match of the week, FC Goa did well to respond to ATK's early goal as Corominas' strike ended the match 1-1. For the second match against the NorthEast, Lobera rotated his squad because their match against ATK finished quite late. The four changes Lobera made did not quite work for Goa as NorthEast earned their first home victory of the season.
Lobera believes his team did not deserve to lose despite players being tired. "‘We were obviously pretty tired and it could be seen up there as well. However, even though we were tired, we played well by working hard and creating chances on goal. But today football is unjust with us because we didn’t deserve to lose this game," Lobera said.
The season is reaching its half-way point so Lobera's side still has plenty of matches to play. But at this point, they sit fifth on the table with four wins, three defeats and one draw. Ideally, with the kind of attacking football they play, Lobera would have expected his side to be in the vicinity of top-three. They are quite a few areas which Lobera needs to work on, especially the defence, as they yet to keep a clean sheet in the tournament. Before things go haywire at the business end of the tournament, Goa should look to fix those problems.
Will change work for NorthEast United?
There's no guarantee that a change in the managerial ranks will work for a particular football club. There's also no guarantee that Avram Grant's appointment as technical director of NorthEast United will drastically change the fortunes of the club. But it certainly helped them in breaking a four-match losing streak.
The 2-1 victory against FC Goa, courtesy of goals from Marcinho and Seiminlen Doungel, was their first win at their home. Before the match, NorthEast had just four points from seven matches and that ultimately resulted in Joao de Deus' sacking.
The club is still languishing at ninth spot on the table and they need more such victories in order to have any chance of getting into the top-four. It's not going to be an easy task, but the next two matches present the best opportunity for them to maintain their winning run. They host ATK and Chennaiyin at home and anything less than six points from those two matches would make things more difficult for Grant's team.
A different Jamshedpur FC
For the first time in the league, Jamshedpur FC scored two goals in a match, and both the goals came from open play, another first for the club. Apart from the victory, manager Steve Coppell would be happy at the way his team played the game. Right from the kick-off, Jamshedpur played attacking brand of football. They did not allow Mumbai defenders to settle, creating quite a few chances in the first 20 minutes.
Despite conceding a goal in the 24th minute, Jamshedpur did not give up attacking football and finally, Izu Azuka found the net in the 43rd minute and added another after two minutes.
It was a delight for Jamshedpur's fans to watch the kind of football their team was playing. And considering how good they are defensively, it was expected that they will not concede anymore in the match. But Mumbai found the equaliser through Thiago Santos' second goal and the match ended 2-2.
Steve Coppell made his team to play an attractive brand of football but it he would disappointed that it came at a cost of their defence. But it showed that Coppell is a pragmatic manager, willing to change the game plan if needed, and it will be interesting to see what approach he takes in future games.