ISL 2017-18: Iain Hume leads Kerala Blasters' resurgence in week 10; Delhi Dynamos finally show some fight
Hat-trick, late drama, refereeing howlers and some sublime goals - week 10 of ISL was an extremely eventful one.
Pivotal! Week 10 of the Indian Super League (ISL) could prove to be a potentially game-changing week in the competition. From Kerala Blasters winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, Delhi Dynamos finally making their presence felt to FC Goa returning to winning ways after a three-game winless streak, the latest round of matches has the potential to upset the pecking order that's pretty much been maintained since the opening weeks of the competition.
Despite the top four teams remaining unchanged, the gap between the top half and the chasing pack has reduced as the teams in the lower half of the table are showing signs of form. Under new management, Kerala Blasters bagged a vital 3-1 win away over Delhi Dynamos to kick off the week, before Goa edged past a resolute Jamshedpur FC side in the second game. ATK maintained their recent good form by grabbing three crucial points at NorthEast United before Chennaiyin cemented top spot with narrow victory over FC Pune City. On Sunday Delhi Dynamos stunned Bengaluru FC in the early kick-off before Kerala Blasters rounded off a dream week with a win at Mumbai.
A hat-trick, late drama, refereeing howlers and some sublime goals — the last round of matches had pretty much everything, and here are the biggest talking points from Week 10.
Iain Hume tricks his way into form
Iain Hume, ISL's all-time leading goalscorer, had been a shadow of his past in the latest edition of the competition, until he sprung back to life at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi. Putting the hapless Delhi Dynamos to the sword, Hume fired his third ISL hat-trick to hand David James his first win back as manager of the south Indian club. In Kerala's second fixture of the week, the Canadian once again found himself on the score sheet as he netted the game's solitary goal to help Kerala to their second successive win on the road. Having begun the week without any goals to his name, Hume now has four goals that have helped him sneak into the top 10 scorers in the league this season.
Hume's return to form will come as a big boost for last season's runners-up who are now just two points behind fourth-ranked Goa. The Blasters will now be looking to have a late surge, similar to the last campaign that saw them march all the way to the final after a slow start to the season.
Chennaiyin make late show count to sit pretty on top
Chennaiyin FC fans would be delighted to see their team on the top of the ISL charts, but they would have preferred to see their team take a much easier route to the top. Late drama has been a constant in games involving the Chennai outfit and that might not be the best thing for the spectators' health. After being pegged back on late by the Delhi Dynamos in their previous game, Chennaiyin made amends by netting a late winner against fellow top-four side FC Pune City.
Gregory Nelson's well-taken goal in the 83rd minute wasn't the only time John Gregory's men have snatched points late on in matches. In the derby against Bengaluru FC, Dhanpal Ganesh scored with a few minutes left on the clock to give the 'Super Machans' three crucial points. Similarly, Jeje Lalpekhlua's goal in the dying minutes against ATK and Henrqie Sereno's late strike in the reverse fixture against Pune are also incidents when Chennaiyin prospered at the death.
With just two defeats to their name, Chennaiyin FC's ability to convert draws into wins sees them sit at the top of the ISL charts with eight games to play.
Referees continue to make headlines for wrong reasons
The fourth edition of the ISL has been marred by refereeing mistakes right from the outset and 10 weeks on things don't seem to be getting better. Jamshedpur FC boss Steve Coppell said he felt "hard done by" after refereeing errors seemed to cost his side the points against FC Goa. Coppell criticised the referee for making a "poor mistake" when he pointed to the spot after Goa's Brandon Fernandes went down in the box just before half time. Replays showed that Jamshedpur defender Andre Bikey had got a touch on the ball before his leg brushed with the onrushing Fernandes. Goa's second goal also appeared to have a hint of controversy about it, as Manuel Lanzarote seemed offside in the build-up.
In the final game of the week featuring Mumbai and Kerala, the only goal of the game was highly contentious. Referee Pranjal Banerjee allowed a quick free-kick to be taken without ensuring the ball was at a standstill. Hume, who latched onto to the quick pass before scoring, also seemed offside.
Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca, who has been upset about the standard of refereeing in the ISL at various points in the season, called for the authorities to ensure greater refereeing standards in the competition after his side's 2-0 loss in Delhi Dynamos.
Delhi Dynamos show signs of life after win against Bengaluru FC
Delhi Dynamos had got off to a flying start this season when they thumped FC Pune City in their own backyard in the opening week. However Miguel Angel Portugal's side failed to record a win for eight straight games after that — only one of which ended in a draw. The poor streak was expected to continue when high flying Bengaluru FC came calling, but a resolute performance from the Delhi side earned them an unlikely victory, their first points at home this season.
The Dynamos had conceded 24 goals in nine games going into the weekend clash, but the bottom-ranked side showed great discipline to keep Bengaluru's attack quiet. Portugal's men started conjuring more and more chances on the break before Lallianzuala Chhangte broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute. A late penalty from Guyon Fernandez sealed the three points for Delhi who finally showed signs of life after a terrible season so far.
Citing examples of other footballing nations from across the world, AIFF technical director Isac Doru had earlier recommended that no team should be demoted this season.
One of India's finest midfielders (half-back as per 1960s parlance), Franco was a part of Indian football's golden era between 1960-64.
India are already out of reckoning for a 2022 FIFA World Cup berth but still in contention for a 2023 Asian Cup spot in the joint qualifiers.