At the end week no.5 in the 2015 Hero Indian Super League, four teams have played 9 matches out of 14 and four others have finished 10. In a compact league of just 8 teams, even the last 3-4 games can make decisive difference although, FC Goa are table toppers at this stage with 15 points. Even Pune City and Delhi Dynamos have 15 points while Chennaiyin FC, who lie at the bottom of league table have 10 points in 9 matches with 3 victories and a drawn game. Including Goa, 5 teams out of 8 have won 4 matches and therefore, the 2015 ISL season is still wide open. As a win affords them 3 points, even Chennai can jump up to qualify for the knock-out phase that begins on December 11, 2015. Mumbai has failed to win another match after three home victories on trot and they have slipped to the sixth spot with 12 points. However with 5 games still left, they have their chances as well. Their home game against Pune on Friday November 13 ended in a goalless draw. In what the media chose to term as Maharashtra Derby, both Mumbai and Pune had their chances but targets remained elusive in a match witnessed by more than 23000 spectators at Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil stadium.
Many experts believe that the title honors for the 2015 Hero Indian Super League could go to any of the 8 teams in fray. The league size is too small for big point difference between teams and since each win allows 3 points, a couple of wins can improve a team’s standings. It was demonstrated last month, when Mumbai FC won three games in a row and lifted themselves from the bottom to occupy the no.2 spot. Since then, however, Mumbai have not won any matches and their home loss to ATK, followed by a goalless draw with FC Pune City, have brought Mumbai down to no.6 with 12 points. Mumbai hosted Pune last Friday but couldn’t manage to win another home game. The match had a subdued beginning as neither team could control the ball possession for the better part of first half. Mumbai got the first opportunity in the 27th minute, when Pune goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya couldn’t clear a back pass and Mumbai’s Singam Subash Singh was afforded a golden chance. But Singam first missed a straightforward chance and on the rebound had a tight angle, from where he missed again. Pune also had a chance in the 39th minute, when Adrian Mutu received a perfect cross in front of Mumbai’s goal but his powerful left-footer was saved by Mumbai goalkeeper Subrata Paul in a great reflex action. After three minutes’ injury time was added to the first half, Mumbai had one more opportunity, when the Pune goalkeeper and his teammate Didier Zokora had a misunderstanding but Mumbai couldn’t capitalize on the lapse as Zokora recovered in time to send the ball over the goal-line for a corner.
Early in the second half, Pune came close to scoring but Adrian Mutu shot wide. The same thing happened, when Mumbai got an opening and this time home team’s Frederic Piquionne headed wide off the Pune goal. In the 71st minute, Mumbai had another chance but Nicolas Anelka’s powerful shot was saved by Pune goalkeeper Bhattacharya. Pune should have scored in the 75th minute but the alert Subrata Paul tipped Mutu’s stinging volley over the crossbar. With 11 minutes to go for full-time, Mumbai substitute Sampathkumar Kuttymani drove powerfully into the goal but the Pune goalkeeper saved the goal. In the dying minutes, Pune got another chance but couldn’t convert and the match ended in a goalless draw. The result pushed Mumbai down to the 6th spot in league standings while Pune retained its second place.
In almost a major comeback story, North-East United FC rose to 5th spot with a draw against Delhi Dynamos on November 3 and back-to-back away-game wins against ATK on November 7 and Chennaiyin FC on November 11. On Sunday November 15, however, NEUFC suffered a 1-4 home loss against Kerala Blasters and continued at the fifth spot. The compactness of the league would have been evident, if NEUFC had beaten Kerala. In that case, they would have jumped to the top with 5 wins. This tells us that anything can happen in the 2015 ISL with plenty of matches still left in the league phase. Besides NEUFC losing to Kerala Blasters on November 15, last week’s other results include; Kerala Blasters defeating FC Pune 2-0 at Kochi on November 4; Goa defeating Chennai 2-0 at Chennai on November 5; Mumbai drawing 1-1 with Delhi at Delhi on November 6; the two top teams Goa and Pune finishing level at 2-2 at Pune on November 8 and Atletico de Kolkata beating Kerala Blasters 3-2 at Kochi on November 10.