The Indian Super League is now 17 matches old but 44 games are yet to be played. Two weeks of colorful football has been welcomed by spectators in ISL football cities but despite Atletico de Kolkata looking solid so far, it would be hazardous to predict the winner at this stage. The tournament has seen 44 goals scored until yesterday and there have been 60 bookings of which 3 were red cards. In the three games played on October 28, 29 and 30th, there were highly contrasting results with Thursday’s last game ending in the first victory for Kerala Blasters against Pune City FC. After Monday’s no-game day, Tuesday 28th saw Chennaiyin FC drubbing Mumbai City FC 5-1 at home with Wednesday’s game between Delhi Dynamos FC and Northeast United FC ending in a goalless draw at Delhi.
After Sunday’s double-header, Monday was a no-game day. On Tuesday, however, Mumbai was sunk by fantastic football skills of Elano and Mendoza, both of whom came up with superlative performances and became the stars of the Chennai night. The two players had a brace each and their efforts brought Mumbai to their knees in a disappointingly heavy defeat. Both teams had different combinations from their previous games. Chennai brought in Marco Materazzi, Jeje and Jairo Suarez. Even captain Bojan Djordjic was not seen in starting line-up and Bernard Mendy deputized for him. For Mumbai, Nabi’s return from injury was a welcome change but they missed defender Cmovs Pavel, who was red-carded in the last game against NEUFC. Mumbai’s Marquee player Nicolas Anelka also came back after completing a world-wide ban of three matches.
Chennai began attacking from start and struck in the ninth minute. Manuel Friedrich brought down Mendoza inside the box and Elano made no error with the spot-kick. A little later, Mendoza collected his goalkeeper’s deep kick and sprinted in Mumbai half, beating three defenders but his one-to-one effort against Mumbai goalkeeper Subrata Paul was wasted as Paul made a grand save. Though Nicolas Anelka was brilliant in his debut for Mumbai and launched some serious attempts, he was denied by great goalkeeping by Chennai custodian Shilton. Mendoza, however, dominated the first half and his relentless energy pushed back Mumbai’s defense time and time again. Chennai’s second goal came in 26th minute, when Elano fed a nice ball to Jeje, who entered the box and finished with a lovely left-footer. In the 39th, 41st and 44th minutes, Mendoza made three super attempts on Mumbai goal and while his rocket-like first shot was saved, the next two attempts found the target as Chennai FC went up 4-0 at halftime. It wasn’t any different, when the game resumed after the break. Chennai continued to raid Mumbai goal area after Mendoza’s brace; Elano also got a brace with a clinically executed free-kick in the 69th minute. With not enough time left for Mumbai to wipe out the 0-5 deficit, their sole consolation was the 86th minute header from Nabi that found the target to make it 5-1 for Chennai.
The second game at Delhi on October 29 between the hosts and North-East United ended in a goalless draw. Despite Delhi’s star strength, they have failed to show their mettle in ISL so far. The only consolation for them is not losing a match.In an evenly contested match on Wednesday, both teams displayed flashes of brilliance but failed to convert all promising opportunities. To some extent, Delhi appeared a better team in first half, while NEUFC seemed more agile in the second. Delhi had the first opportunity in 14th minute, when Bruno Arias beat a few NEUFC defenders and passed a good ball to Del Piero, whose powerful shot went just wide. Then Mads Junker also missed, when his curling drive from 25 yards couldn’t find the target. At halftime mark, NEUFC missed a golden chance, when Anwar Ali’s nice feed to Tomas Josl was shot wide with the Delhi goalkeeper rooted to his place. The match ended 0-0 after some more chances were spilled on both sides. Despite the draw, the spectator interest in the game remained sustained.
The third game on October 30 was a huge relief for the talented Kerala Blasters. The KB team came to Pune looking for a win and they succeeded. With just one victory, KB have now jumped to the fifth spot. The match began with Pune City FC taking an early lead through their Marquee player David Trezeguet, who was fed a lovely ball by John Goossens from left flank. The Frenchman’s powerful strike shook the net behind the KB goalkeeper. This goal rejuvenated Pune and they made more attempts on KB goal. Kerala made a substitution in 25th minute, bringing in Ishfaq Ahmed to replace Renedy Singh. The change enthused KB and they equalized in the 42nd minute from a corner taken by Stephen Pearson, who sent a floating ball to Sabeeth to strike home. The teams came back from the break at 1-1 and KB carried the momentum forward and brought in Penn Orji in place of Pedro Gusmao. Within 4 minutes of his entry, Orji was fed a brilliant pass by Iain Hume and Orji drove the ball home in the coolest fashion. Orji came close to scoring yet again in the remaining period but couldn’t find the target. In the end, it was a satisfactory end for KB as they broke the jinx in the ISL 2014.
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