It was an absorbing week for Hero Indian Super League with match nos. 22 to 25 producing interesting results. In the last four days, there were two identical 1-0 home wins for Mumbai and Kerala; an unexpected first of the league home loss for Kolkata and a highly supercharged drawn game between Chennai and North-East United. In ISL’s 22nd match on November 5 in Navi Mumbai, the hosts defeated Delhi Dynamos 1-0; on November 6, KB beat FC Goa 1-0 at Kochi but ATK suffered a 1-3 loss against Pune on November 7 and that too on their home ground at Salt Lake. On Saturday, the game between Chennai and North East at Chennai was contested closely but ended finally in a 2-2 draw. With a double header coming up on Sunday, it will be a fitting end to the 5th week of ISL’s first Football show for die-hard football fans in India.
In Mumbai City’s home game against Delhi Dynamos at the DY Patil Stadium Navi Mumbai, it was once again Nicolas Anelka, whose goal proved decisive. It was a close game in which Delhi had a higher percentage of ball possession but they lost the advantage regardless. But having lost Syed Nabi due to injury early in the game, Mumbai were pegged back against many raids that Delhi made. Steven Dias and Mads Junker came close to scoring but some fine goalkeeping by Subrata Paul denied them. After being initially dominated by Delhi, Mumbai played much better in the latter part of first half, when they had two real chances. First, it was Jan Stohanzl, who collected the ball in midfield and after a solo run, shot powerfully to the goal only to see the ball sail over the crossbar. A little later, Lalrindika Ralte also tried a shot but Delhi’s Belgian goalkeeper; Kristof Van Hout thwarted the attempt. Mumbai’s best chance in the first half was a joint move by Andre Moritz and Nicolas Anelka. But when the ball reached Subhash Singh, he muffed the simple chance. Mumbai were buoyed in the second half and played in Delhi’s half for long. The decisive but surprising goal of the match came in 59th minute, when Delhi launched an attack on Mumbai’s goal. But in a scintillating counter-attack, Stohanzl found the ball in midfield and passed it to Subhash Singh on his right. In a quick move, Subhash lobbed the ball over a defender towards the onrushing Anelka, who only needed a delicate left-footer to deposit the ball to top left corner. Delhi replaced Mads Junker with Alessandro Del Piero but the move didn’t pay off and Mumbai continued to sustain pressure. Anelka created more chances but the match ended with no further goals. With three victories, Mumbai occupied the third spot behind ATK and Chennai while Delhi has slipped to the sixth spot.
On November 6, Kerala Blasters hosted FC Goa at Kochi. In a cautiously played first half, both sides were content in protecting any goals against them, although there were some promising moves from both sides. The contest became livelier in second half and the visitors succeeded in taking the lead in 64th minute. The second-half substitute, Andrew Barisic provided a nice assist to the unmarked Milagres Gonsalves, who made no mistake with the big chance. Goa attempted the equalizer but KB held their lead until the end and held the 1-0 victory.
On Friday, Kolkata had the ignominy of suffering their first defeat of the league at home against Pune. The home side looked better as the match began. Cavin Lobo, who had come in for the suspended Jofre, created many promising moves for ATK and with Fikru by his side, the combination looked awesome. But as the game progressed, Pune began making attacking moves. The visitors succeeded in 35th minute, when Davide Colomba sent a lovely cross from left, which was smartly headed in by Dudu. While Kolkata tried for an equalizer, Pune doubled their lead just after the break, when Kostas Katsouranis moved up with the ball and pulled off a great shot that found the top corner to make it 2-0 for Pune. It was a setback for ATK but they didn’t relent. They got their chance, when Pune goalkeeper blocked Fikru dangerously. ATK got the goal through Fikru’s precise penalty. But Pune restored the two-goal lead and displaced Mumbai from the third spot, when Josemi’s foul resulted into a free-kick and Colomba scored from a low shot from just outside the box.
Saturday’s game at Chennai between NorthEast United and hosts Chennaiyin FC turned out to be a thrilling contest that ended in a 2-2 draw. Elano Blumer scored twice for Chennai and it appeared that the hosts would emerge the winner. But with 5 minutes to go for the final whistle, NEUFC, Koke came up with an amazing equalizer to split the points. In a match that remained fascinatingly absorbing from start to finish, Chennai took the lead in the 25th minute after Elano charged in to connect a cross sent by Devadas and his powerful header completely beat Rehenesh. NEUFC found the equalizer in the 38th minute, when Doungel received a ball from James Keene, who was fed a nice cross from Airborlang Khongjee. Doungel produced a wonderful volley on the turn that was bang on the target. In the 78th minute, Elano scored again after dribbling past two defenders and hitting a low shot to the far post. But NEUFC made it 2-2, when Koke took advantage of a poor clearance from Mendy and thumped past the goalkeeper.