ISL 2020-21 Gameweek 2 talking points: Impressive ATK Mohun Bagan, Hyderabad FC's defensive resilience and more
Three out of five matches in the second round of ISL fixtures ended in draws, with only ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC winning. Here are the talking points.
Gameweek Two of the Indian Super League was the cause of much excitement for fans of Indian football, mainly because it featured the league's first-ever Kolkata derby, in which newcomers SC East Bengal were beaten by ATK Mohun Bagan. Elsewhere, there were a string of draws, with three out of five matches ending in stalemates, while Mumbai City FC picked up the only other win of this round of fixtures against 10-man FC Goa.
Here are the talking points from the second gameweek:
ATK Mohun Bagan pick up where they left off
Coming into this season of the ISL, there was little doubt in anyone's mind that ATK Mohun Bagan were the favourites for the title. The merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan meant that both the ISL and I-League champions would be combined into one fearsome outfit, and the fact that the club managed to retain all of their most valuable players just added fuel to their fire.
To no one's surprise, ATK Mohun Bagan have begun their league campaign in excellent fashion, winning their opener against Kerala Blasters FC before easing past local rivals East Bengal in a 2-0 victory. They currently find themselves atop the league table, with no other club having won more than one match, and they're also yet to concede a goal. While these are still early days in the season, this is the best possible start they could have hoped for, and already, title rivals have cause for concern.
Sergio Lobera gets the better of Goa
Sergio Lobera's departure from Goa in the middle of the previous season signalled the end of an era at the Gaurs. Lobera had been at the helm of Goa for three years, transforming them into one of the most entertaining sides in Indian football and fans were understandably upset when he left. To add insult to injury, he then joined rivals Mumbai City FC and took a whole host of Goa's best players with him.
With all this in mind, FC Goa and their supporters will likely have wanted to come out on top when Mumbai and Goa met on 25 November, but unfortunately for Goa, it didn't quite pan out the way they would have hoped. Goa began the match well enough, with a couple of dangerous set-pieces from Edu Bedia, but were handed a real blow when Redeem Tlang was sent off in the 40th minute for an out-of-control double-footed tackle on Hernan Santana. Goa still managed to hang in there for a while, even getting a few shots on target, but ultimately Mumbai City's advantage of an extra man proved to be telling, with Adam le Fondre scoring a penalty in added time.
Hyderabad show defensive resilience
Hyderabad FC's debut in the ISL wasn't one to remember, as the fledgling club ended their first season at the bottom of the table, but this time around, Manuel Marquez Roca's side appear to have a certain grit about them. Despite conceding 29 goals in 18 games last year at a rate of just over two goals per game, Hyderabad are yet to concede in this season of the ISL. They won their opening match thanks to a solitary goal from Aridane Santana, before then keeping a clean sheet against perennial title contenders Bengaluru FC in a goalless draw.
— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) November 29, 2020
On the face of it, Hyderabad holding Bengaluru to a draw seems like a good result for the Nizams, but they'll be disappointed not to have come away from the match with all three points. Hyderabad were the more dominant side by far, taking 13 shots in comparison to Bengaluru's three. While most of these were long-range efforts that flew over the bar, the best opportunity of the night fell to Santana, whose header was directed straight at Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the Blues' goal. While they could not secure a result against Bengaluru, Hyderabad can take heart from their defensive performances of late
Are Jamshedpur in for another year of disappointment?
There was a certain degree of hype around Jamshedpur FC in the build-up to the new season of the ISL, as manager Owen Coyle took over and strengthened the team with some key transfers. Jamshedpur have as of yet failed to live up to that hype, losing their first match to Coyle's former employers Chennaiyin FC, before blowing a two-goal lead against Odisha to take just the one point from a match they should have won comfortably.
Jamshedpur began excellently against Odisha, with star striker Nerijus Valskis scoring a brace with just over a quarter of the match having been played, but Odisha grew in confidence as the match progressed, before a moment of positional unawareness from goalkeeper TP Rehenesh put Jamshedpur's backs against the wall. Rehenesh charged out to meet an Odisha attacker, before accidentally handling the ball just outside his penalty area, which resulted in a red card. Odisha were able to make the most of the resultant free kick through substitute Diego Mauricio's scrappy finish, before Mauricio scored the equaliser late into added time. For Odisha, this was a comeback that they can take some positives from, but for Jamshedpur, it's an all-too-familiar reminder of their struggles in the past.
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In a match where both the teams failed to convert many chances, it was Hyderabad who turned up stronger on the day, denying any goal to the relentless Mumbai attack.
Gallego had a part to play in Luis Machado's opener (60th) before Roy Krishna (72nd) equalised for the Mariners. Gallego's 81st-minute curler settled things for NorthEast.
FC Goa will have the chance to move into second spot on the Indian Super League table when they face ATK Mohun Bagan, the current occupants of that slot, in a much-anticipated match on Sunday.