The 2015 season of the Hero Indian Super League is entering the fourth week with each team having already played at least four matches out of fourteen. While no predictions are possible at this stage, the championship leaderboard shows FC Goa on top with 10 points earned from five matches. Second and third-placed Pune and Delhi have 9 points each but while Delhi have played 5 matches, Pune’s 9 points have come from 3 three wins in 4 matches. Last year’s winners Atletico de Kolkata lie at the fourth place with 2 wins in 5 matches. 2014 runner-up Kerala Blaster with just one win in 5 matches are at the seventh place ahead of bottom-placed Mumbai FC. Last year’s semifinalist, Chennaiyin FC are having a hard time this year and have a tough match coming up on Saturday at home against the vastly improved FC Pune City. Chennaiyin have lost 3 matches out of 5 with the last 0-2 defeat against NorthEast United FC in the last match on October 20 at Guwahati. But the South-India outfit has two very creditable away victories against FC Goa, whom they bounced off 4-0 and another impressive 2-0 win against Mumbai City. On Thursday, FC Goa recorded their third victory in five matches, when they defeated Kerala Blasters 2-1 at home and in Friday’s match, NorthEast United FC had a 1-0 home victory against defending champions Atletico de Kolkata.
It was a great game of football on Thursday October 22 at Fatorda’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, where the hosts took on last year’s runner-up Kerala Blasters FC. In a well contested first half, Kerala looked a better team and it showed in the 24th minute, when Mohammed Rafi found himself in good position for a header off a superb cross sent by Rahul Bheke. Rafi’s goal took Kerala ahead 1-0 and the match became more intense in the remaining time of the first half. Both teams had equal ball possession and at the stroke of the interval, Goa equalized. A rather poor deflection by the Kerala goalkeeper fell in the path of the Brazilian Leo Moura, who deposited a controlled shot at the top left corner. The teams went for the break at 1-1.
In the second half, Kerala dominated the ball possession in the early phase and came close to scoring again in the 64th minute. A well-taken corner found Englishman Sanchez Watt in good position but Watt’s first attempt and two subsequent jabs by Brazil’s Bruno Perone couldn’t find the target. Egged on by the raucous home supporters, Goa went into attack and succeeded, when Gregory Arnolin scored the winning goal by heading in a corner from Mandar Rao Desai. It was the second time in two matches that Goa had bounced back from a 0-1 deficit to win the match. With that victory, Goa took the top spot in team standings at 10 points from 5 matches and travel to Mumbai to play their next match against Mumbai on Sunday October 25.
In Friday’s match at Guwahati’s Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, NorthEast United FC defeated defending champions Atletico de Kolkata 1-0 with a 77th minute goal from Argentinian Nicolas Leandro Velez. In the first half, both sides carried the attack to their opponents’ half from time to time. ATK’s English recruit Iain Hume tried to get past the NEUFC goalkeeper Rehenesh on a few occasions and his teammate Jaime Gavilan came close to scoring in the 17th minute but his shot wide despite Borja Fernandez sending him a juicy cross. North East also had their chance in the 29th minute but Reagan Singh’s shot was saved by ATK goalkeeper Amrinder Singh. The first half ended goalless.
The second half also began with a number of missed chances. ATK’s Ofentse Nato and Javi Lara came close to scoring but couldn’t convert the chances. Then NEUFC’s Diomansy Kamara also had a chance but Amrinder Singh foiled the attempt. The 25000 capacity crowd went wild in the 77th minute, when Nicolas entered the ATK box after an impressive run down the left flank. He passed the ball to Sanju Pradhan, who shot at the goal without any result. However, the deflected ball came back to Velez. The Argentinian was not to make any mistake as he drove home to the delight of the ecstatic home supporters. In the remaining time ATK did their best to find the equalizer but failed to do so. For their next games, NEUFC travel to Mumbai for an away game on October 28th, while ATK will host Delhi Dynamos on October 29 at the Salt Lake stadium Kolkata.