ISL 2020-21: Lack of creativity hurting Kerala Blasters, Sunil Chhetri scores at last and other talking points from matchweeks 3 and 4
Here are the talking points from the third and fourth matchdays of ISL 2020-21.
The last 10 days of the Indian Super League (ISL) witnessed some intense, high-flying football. ATK Mohun Bagan dropped points for the first time this season following a 2-1 loss to Jamshedpur FC on Monday, while teams like Kerala Blasters and SC East Bengal continued to be troubled by certain worries. Mumbai City made it three consecutive wins since their opening loss to NorthEast United on 21 November, while Bengaluru FC and FC Goa also clinched their maiden wins of the season.
Here we take a look at the talking points from matchdays three and four:
Chhetri fires at last, but Thapa blow for Chennaiyin
It was a tale of contrasting fortunes when Chennaiyin FC took on Bengaluru FC in this particular edition of the South Indian Derby. Sunil Chhetri scored his first goal of the season converting from the spot, while a horrific injury to Anirudh Thapa meant he needed to be substituted in the 15th minute.
BFC’s Ashique Kuruniyan was challenging for possession from Anirudh Thapa, who seemed to have won the ball at one point, but Kuruniyan followed it up with a tackle that left Thapa in pain. That was Ashique’s third foul already in the match, soon after which Edwin was brought in for Thapa for his first appearance of the season.
Thapa has been a resilient force in CFC’s defence over the last few years, and CFC coach Czaba Laszlo sounded worried about the extent of his injury.
"I have to talk to the doctor. It looks really bad. I don't understand how the referees don't protect the players," the manager said in the post-match press conference.
The penalty, meanwhile, occurred in the 56th minute, moments after Edwin Vanspaul’s tackle on Cleiton Silva, who was making a run through the left flank. Erik Paartalu rolled down a pass to Cleiton, who was inside the box, but a rushing Edwin tackled the Brazilian instead of challenging for the ball to concede the penalty. Chhetri then followed it up with a slow run-up, but smashed it right of Vishal Kaith, whose diving effort went in vain.
Lack of creativity hurting Kerala
Earlier in matchday 3, Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Albino Gomes was the man of the moment for the Yellow Brigade, courtesy of a fine penalty save of Jakub Slvestyr. That earned Kibu Vicuna’s men another point, but costly defensive errors and lack of spark in the midfield hurt the Kochi-based outfit really hard in their next match against FC Goa which ended 3-1 in favour of the Gaurs.
The Blasters have struggled in terms of ability to create chances in open play so far, with a total of only seven shots on target across the four games. Gary Hooper has looked shaky, and injuries to star midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad and captain Sergio Cidoncha only add to the Blasters’ midfield woes.
Defensive midfielder Vicente Gomez, however, showed more solidity with four shots in the game, with two of them on target. Gomez eventually won three free kicks, and the consolation moment for Blasters came towards the end of the game, when Gomez slammed a header past Mohammad Nawaz after receiving a pass from Nishu Kumar who was at the right flank.
Safe to say, Gomez was the most impactful player against an FC Goa side flying high on the back of their main man Igor Angulo’s form, but Vicuna will need his other men to step up to the occasion and most importantly Albino Gomes cutting down on costly errors.
More misery for East Bengal
Four games played. Zero wins. Zero points. Zero goals. One of the much-talked about teams before the ISL kickstarted in November, Robbie Fowler’s SC East Bengal have looked shaky, been far from impressive, and have a huge task cut out.
They lost 3-0 to Mumbai City FC on 1 December and 2-0 to NorthEast United four days later, but despite having the likes of Anthony Pilkington and Balwant Singh, their finishing abilities have been a cause of concern.
To add to their defensive worries, captain Daniel Fox picked up an injury against Mumbai in just the sixth minute, and had to be subbed off for Mohammed Rafique.
East Bengal have conceded seven goals in these four matches, which is the most in the Indian top flight this season.
Meanwhile, Jeje returned to the field against Mumbai City last week after more than a year’s layoff due to injury, but more attacking intent will be expected from the lone striker Balwant as East Bengal aim to live up to the reputation with more wins and goals.
Valskis has the last laugh against ATK Mohun Bagan
Just when you thought ATK Mohun Bagan would continue their juggernaut of wins, Jamshedpur FC’s Nerijus Valskis, someone who is used to rising up to the big occasions, stepped up once again to spoil the Kolkata giants' party.
This was JFC’s first win this season, and they couldn’t have hoped to beat a better opponent than Bagan. Surely, this victory will be a huge confidence booster for Owen Coyle and Co.
Valskis scored both goals via set-pieces, and it was also Valskis’ second brace in 10 days, with the previous one coming against Odisha FC on 29 November.
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The 32-team tournament is scheduled to start on 20 July.
Nahuel Molina has signed a five-year contract with Atletico de Madrid.