Match report: Chennaiyin FC 5 – 1 Mumbai City FC

Chennaiyin FC's ElanoChennaiyin FC taught Mumbai City FC a lesson at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium today. While Mumbai have the elegance of Anelka, it was Chennaiyin who took all the points and bragging rights.

In fact, Chennaiyin dominated the match from start to finish, ripping apart Mumbai’s defence time and again with barely any effort. The destruction was fuelled by the pace of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Stiven Mendoza and the vision of Elano.

Between Jeje and Mendoza, though, it was Mendoza who deserves all the accolades that anyone can give him while Elano glided, floated, cruised, and almost turned water into wine on the pitch.

The Chennaiyin FC’s First Goal

The first goal came through a penalty from Elano. Mendoza turned into the box from the right flank, side stepping defenders before losing the ball which rolled free. At this point, Friedrich decided to put in a wild swing disguised as a tackle but the referee was having none of it. Friedrich was lucky actually. He could have been sent off because his wild swing was so wild that he banged the knee of Mendoza. Elano, the set piece expert stepped up and side footed the ball to his right at great pace. 1 – 0. This was, by the way, Elano’s fourth goal in four matches.

Materazzi gets headbutted by ZidaneOn the other end, Chennaiyin’s player cum coach Materazzi (the taunt-your-opponent-to-lose-his-head man), along with his cohorts Silvestre and Bernard Mendy, owned the pitch on the other end. They were there for virtually every cross, slide rule pass, and random punt forward from Mumbai (most of their attacks were random punts just so you know). The Chennaiyin keeper seemed to have felt some of the pain that Mumbai was feeling because he actually tried to give them a goal a couple of times by spilling a ball and coming for a cross wrongly.

Mumbai, while entirely dominated, did get a few chances, the pick of which was a Friedrich free header from the penalty spot through an in swinging corner. Another was when Subhash got free only to see Silvestre come across and tackle him soundly. It had to be good too because he was the last man. He never made such tackles for Arsenal, bah!

After this was a period where the match dulled, settled, slowed, and puttered. However, then Raju stepped up and my amusement rose. He reminded me of one Rory Delap from Stoke. His long throw-ins were amusing and so was Raju’s, although his was actually better and stronger than Delap’s used to be.

Mendoza Makes his Presence Felt

Chennaiyin FC's Stevin MendozaThe game livened up again after a dull period and it was none other than Mendoza who got free from the left inside. The ball was lofted to him; it was bouncing, so he could only hit it against the keeper who saved well. Yet again, Elano spotted a runner and caressed the ball over the top to him. It was Jeje who didn’t need a controlling touch and simply stroked the ball with his left foot to the keeper’s left and into the goal. 2 – 0. He showed the kind of talent that took him to Glasgow Rangers in Scotland earlier.

At this point, it was surprisingly to see that Mumbai had more possession but then Chennaiyin is a counterattacking team that invites opponents into their half before breaking with aplomb. Chennaiyin actually only had about 39% possession.

I have to say that I was disappointed with Mumbai even though Chennaiyin’s defence is star-studded. I understand that Anelka is recovering from injury and may not be 100 percent but Peter Reid’s tactics were atrocious. In the first half, it was all about long punts forward. Really? You want long punts forward with Materazzi in the other team’s defence? Did you by any chance mistake your usual chewing gum with some sort of a weed cookie? What about your defence? Did you give them those cookies too because they were playing like they were stoned? I think, on evidence of this game, he’ll be replaced in the next season.

Chennaiyin served up another chance which Mumbai’s keeper saved again. Mumbai’s keeper needs to be commended. Well played. He’s the only one who kept the score pseudo-respectable. By this time, Chennaiyin could have been up by 4 – 0. Subhash for Mumbai got a chance to get his team back into the match but couldn’t take it.

The Goal Glut Begins

Mumbai FC's Nicolas AnelkaMendoza threatened again from the left side of the box but his shot went over. He then turned up in the right back position defending and winning balls. Good call for the man of the match along with Elano. Mendoza made up for it after a bit though. Elano took a freekick from 34 yards out, swinging the ball into the keeper low, who promptly spilled it. Mendoza was there to nudge the ball into the net. 3 – 0.

Mendoza took his tally to 2 for the match when Elano set him free with another beautiful over the top pass. Mendoza did well to curve his run to break the offside trap. He pushed the ball over the keeper and followed it in. 4 – 0. Interesting fact time. Chennaiyin is the first team in ISL to score 4 goals in the first half.

Mumbai then had a claim for handball in the box turned down rightfully. Subhash complained to the referee, Materazzi stepped in, and lo and behold, there was a scuffle.

That was the first half. Second half turned out to be fairly dull with Mumbai passing from right to left and then from left to right with the central midfielders in the middle. The exception was Elano’s free kick from the side which made the score 5 – 0. His right footed ball from an acute angle outside the box curled through a couple of players into the bottom far corner.

The rest of the half was fairly dull and dreary. There were a slew of substitutions. Before the end, Mumbai pulled one goal back to 5 – 1 from a corner. The scorer was Nabi who headed the ball in. There was no celebration and no emotion. The game was over and Mendoza and Elano both missed out on their hat-tricks.

A word for Anelka. I know you didn’t hear much about him in this report but that’s because he was largely anonymous. He’ll turn on his magic later in the season. You just wait and watch…and pray.

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Pires, Habas, and Lemessa Receive ISL Bans

ISL BansIt seems the altercation between Pires, Habas, and Lemessa have resulted in the first proper flexing of legal muscles by the Indian Super League i.e. ISL bans. From reports, it seems that a scuffle broke out between FC Goa’s Robert Pires on one side and the manager of Atletico de Kolkata, Antonio Lopez Habas, and Kolkata’s striker, Fikru Lemessa, on the other.

Early media reports suggested that Pires was punched by Habas and there was no further details provided. However, after a thorough investigation, all the parties have been charged with breaching the rule of governed by Offensive Behaviour and Fair Play clause (Article 58) of the AIFF Disciplinary Code.

Robert Pires and Fikru Lemessa have been banned for two matches of ISL while Habas has received a four match ISL ban which confirms that he did, indeed, take a dislike to Pires’s toothy smirk. Kolkata’s goalkeeping coach, one Predipkumar Bhaktawer was handed a one match suspension as well.

In addition to these ISL bans and suspensions, Pires, Lemessa, and Habas, each have been fined a tidy sum of Rs 5,00,000 (five lakh). Bhaktawer was told to pay up Rs 30,000 (thirty thousand) as well.

That’s nice of ISL organisers – to pocket about Rs 15, 30, 000. I wonder what they plan to do with the money. Will there be some investment in the country’s football players?

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Match Report: Northeast United 1 – 1 FC Goa

Like Rehenesh TP debuted in the Indian Super League (ISL) today, this post marks the debut of ISL Blog. However, I’d like to avoid the fate of the Northeast United’s Goalkeeper as he was the one who started the goal proceedings in a negative way.

I could’ve probably chosen a more entertaining game to begin ISL Blog but at the same time, I could’ve chosen something much worse. I will settle for this one.

Impressive But a Slightly Dirty Beginning from Northeast United

Like Rehenesh TP debuted in the Indian Super League (ISL) today, this post marks the debut of ISL Blog. However, I’d like to avoid the fate of the Northeast United’s Goalkeeper as he was the one who started the goal proceedings in a negative way. I could’ve probably chosen a more entertaining game to begin ISL Blog but at the same time, I could’ve chosen something much worse. I will settle for this one. Impressive But a Slightly Dirty Beginning from Northeast The game began tentatively with the first major incident being the battering of Robert Pires at the hands of Isaac Chansa. Chansa did make up for going after my favourite player in the league by showing some real verve and drive for the rest of the game and eliminating the hooligan from his game. The first good incident was the drive from Capdevila under the wall which almost went in due to a deflection. Seda, Goa’s goalkeeper, played well throughout the night and kept Northeast’s multiple attacks at bay. The game was dominated by Koke from beginning till he was substituted. While people may have expected Pires’s pedigree they saw the calm panache of Koke. Somehow, he always had enough space and time to gather the ball, look up, and slide in a sumptuous pass.  That was the crux of the game from the Home team. Northeast would press hard and high, get the ball, hand it to Koke, and watch him slide balls left, right and centre to willing runners from the middle and the flank. This strategy, eventually, lead to FC Goa being pushed back into their own half and hoping for counters, especially since Pires’s age and rustiness meant that he couldn’t dominate the game. I have to say, I liked Northeast’s game. The First Goal against the Run of Play As is the case with such strategies, Northeast received a lot of offsides against them. Some of the credit must go to Goa’s defence for this and particularly Gregory who made many key interceptions and kept a tight control over the whole defensive line. Gregory would make an even more key contribution at 17 minutes when Goa took the lead against the run of play.  It was a scrappy goal. Chansa, in his early quest to scalp Pires, put in a dirty challenge and was yellow carded. Pires was constantly being double teamed and fouled. I understand the need for laying down the gauntlet to a silky stylish player but forced physicality is not something that I believe Indian football should be straddled with. We, anyways, lack the required technique and quality needed to excel on the world football stage. If the referees start letting tough fouls go by then we’ll end up becoming Neanderthals on the pitch. No one wants to play like Stoke’s ogres do they? The punishment was fair on Chansa and the insult to injury even more so. Santos, the perennial flab master and whipping boy of fans, took the free kick. It was a simple enough affair but Rehenesh decided to make a hash of it or should it be Renehash? He fumbled the simple catch and the ball fell to Ranti Martins, who flicked it towards the goal on the fall. The ball hit the post and rolled across the mouth of the goal. Robin came in and tried to clear the ball which promptly hit Rehenesh’s head while he was flailing on the floor and went to Gregory. Gregory side footed the ball in from a yard out. Yes, it was not a beautiful goal. More importantly, it was against the run of play. Rehenesh would spend the rest of the game being uncertain whether he should come for a ball or let his defenders handle it. Northeast’s Reaction to Going Behind Northeast, after the goal, got even more aggressive with their pressing, running, and hounding. The temperature kept on going up inside the stadium till it exploded with the equaliser at about 36 minutes. The equaliser was controversial though, seriously controversial. The referee for the night, one known as D Gantar, has probably never made a bigger blunder in his life. He gave a penalty to Northeast that should never have stood. Even R Herbert, Northeast’s manager looked slightly surprised and bemused. The call was so poor that the referee should go home take the Ice Bucket Water Challenge just so he could feel clean again. The ball was bouncing around and looped up into the air. Robin jumps from the outside of the box into the air and so does Debarata. The two collide and, for some reason, the grey matter inside Ganter’s head turns into slush and he decides to go for fame. Penalty given. At least, he had the sense to not send the player off. Koke stepped up and calmly equalised with his second goal of the tournament. He coolly sent the keeper to his left and slotted nonchalantly towards his right. No fuss, no huff, bread buttered, breakfast had. Home fans, promptly set off some rockets – its Diwali after all. Northeast continued to dominate the rest of the half. Such was their domination that they had 59% possession. The home fans deserve appreciation and some criticism. I liked the way they cheered their team but I don’t like the fact that they chose to boo the other team’s substitutions. I’ve not heard of categorically booing the opponent’s substitutions, even though I know specifically hated players get the special treatment. Not good sportsmanship at all. The One Way Second Half The second half was starker than the first half. Northeast took control of the game firmly and pushed and pushed to get multiple chances. Goa retreated into their half, presented two banks of defenders, but still gave away a number of good chances. Northeast, led by Koke’s creativity and Capdevila good defending, got many through balls in to runners on flanks but the final ball was always less than perfect. Capdevila would win it and lay it off to a teammate who would promptly pick out Koke. Koke would then proceed to dish out pass after wonderful pass. The finishing was poor though and Seda in good form. He singlehandedly kept Goa in the game and came up with a number of good saves. Pires and Santos, both spent forces, were taken off by Zico later. Isn’t it typical of Zico to setup his team defensively? At least that’s how I remember that man’s managerial stints. He was surprisingly defensive for a Brazilian.  The Final Stretch Edgar Marcelino came on for Pires and he does deserve a mention because he almost took the game by the scruff of its neck a few times. He ran with the ball and put in some good passes before he was too shut down by the Northeast midfield. Chansa also made a difference with his engine, once he put a lid on trying to physically intimidate every opponent. After he stopped giving away fouls, he actually became the archetypical Box to Box midfielder. About the 80 minute mark, everyone got tired with the heavy ISL schedule taking a toll. Some more substitutions were made and both teams seemed to accept that one point will be good enough but the fatigue at the end of the game was palpable. Certain rules also had a role to play in creating that fatigue for both teams. For instance, in an ISL match, both teams must have at least five domestic i.e. Indian players on the pitch. The rule, while good for the development of Indian football, does mean tied hands for managers. Isn’t that a nugget you can throw in your friend’s face the next time he shows off his football knowledge to you in the middle of a match? I’ll try to give you one fact like this with every post on this blog. All in all, the match turned out to be far better than what I expected (I’m used to watching the European – Spain and England – standards of football). Some expectations were met. I thought the foreign names would dominate the game and they did. Only time will tell whether some fairy dust (experience) from those legends will brush off onto Indian players’ shoulders. I did see Pires and Capdevila trying to be generals on the pitch while Koke had a calmness to him that helped his team. Here’s to hoping the Indian players will show some flare and technique in the future matches. Cheers!The game began tentatively with the first major incident being the battering of Robert Pires at the hands of Isaac Chansa. Chansa did make up for going after my favourite player in the league by showing some real verve and drive for the rest of the game and eliminating the hooligan from his game. The first good incident was the drive from Capdevila under the wall which almost went in due to a deflection. Seda, Goa’s goalkeeper, played well throughout the night and kept Northeast United’s multiple attacks at bay.

The game was dominated by Koke from beginning till he was substituted. While people may have expected Pires’s pedigree they saw the calm panache of Koke. Somehow, he always had enough space and time to gather the ball, look up, and slide in a sumptuous pass.

That was the crux of the game from the Home team. Northeast would press hard and high, get the ball, hand it to Koke, and watch him slide balls left, right and centre to willing runners from the middle and the flank. This strategy, eventually, lead to FC Goa being pushed back into their own half and hoping for counters, especially since Pires’s age and rustiness meant that he couldn’t dominate the game. I have to say, I liked Northeast United’s game.

The First Goal against the Run of Play

As is the case with such strategies, Northeast received a lot of offsides against them. Some of the credit must go to Goa’s defence for this and particularly Gregory who made many key interceptions and kept a tight control over the whole defensive line. Gregory would make an even more key contribution at 17 minutes when Goa took the lead against the run of play.

It was a scrappy goal. Chansa, in his early quest to scalp Pires, put in a dirty challenge and was yellow carded. Pires was constantly being double teamed and fouled by Northeast United.

I understand the need for laying down the gauntlet to a silky stylish player but forced physicality is not something that I believe Indian football should be straddled with. We, anyways, lack the required technique and quality needed to excel on the world football stage. If the referees start letting tough fouls go by then we’ll end up becoming Neanderthals on the pitch. No one wants to play like Stoke’s ogres do they?

The punishment was fair on Chansa and the insult to injury even more so. Santos, the perennial flab master and whipping boy of fans, took the free kick. It was a simple enough affair but Rehenesh decided to make a hash of it or should it be Renehash? He fumbled the simple catch and the ball fell to Ranti Martins, who flicked it towards the goal on the fall. The ball hit the post and rolled across the mouth of the goal. Robin came in and tried to clear the ball which promptly hit Rehenesh’s head while he was flailing on the floor and went to Gregory. Gregory side footed the ball in from a yard out. Yes, it was not a beautiful goal. More importantly, it was against the run of play. Rehenesh would spend the rest of the game being uncertain whether he should come for a ball or let his defenders handle it.

Northeast’s Reaction to Going Behind

Northeast, after the goal, got even more aggressive with their pressing, running, and hounding. The temperature kept on going up inside the stadium till it exploded with the equaliser at about 36 minutes. The equaliser was controversial though, seriously controversial.

The referee for the night, one known as D Gantar, has probably never made a bigger blunder in his life. He gave a penalty to Northeast that should never have stood. Even R Herbert, Northeast’s manager looked slightly surprised and bemused. The call was so poor that the referee should go home take the Ice Bucket Water Challenge just so he could feel clean again.

The ball was bouncing around and looped up into the air. Robin jumps from the outside of the box into the air and so does Debarata. The two collide and, for some reason, the grey matter inside Ganter’s head turns into slush and he decides to go for fame. Penalty given. At least, he had the sense to not send the player off.

Koke stepped up and calmly equalised with his second goal of the tournament for Northeast United. He coolly sent the keeper to his left and slotted nonchalantly towards his right. No fuss, no huff, bread buttered, breakfast had. Home fans, promptly set off some rockets – its Diwali after all. Northeast continued to dominate the rest of the half. Such was their domination that they had 59% possession.

The home fans deserve appreciation and some criticism. I liked the way they cheered their team but I don’t like the fact that they chose to boo the other team’s substitutions. I’ve not heard of categorically booing the opponent’s substitutions, even though I know specifically hated players get the special treatment. Not good sportsmanship at all.

The One Way Second Half

The second half was starker than the first half. Northeast took control of the game firmly and pushed and pushed to get multiple chances. Goa retreated into their half, presented two banks of defenders, but still gave away a number of good chances. Northeast, led by Koke’s creativity and Capdevila good defending, got many through balls in to runners on flanks but the final ball was always less than perfect. Capdevila would win it and lay it off to a teammate who would promptly pick out Koke. Koke would then proceed to dish out pass after wonderful pass.

The finishing was poor though and Seda in good form. He singlehandedly kept Goa in the game and came up with a number of good saves. Pires and Santos, both spent forces, were taken off by Zico later. Isn’t it typical of Zico to setup his team defensively? At least that’s how I remember that man’s managerial stints. He was surprisingly defensive for a Brazilian.

The Final Stretch

Edgar Marcelino came on for Pires and he does deserve a mention because he almost took the game by the scruff of its neck a few times. He ran with the ball and put in some good passes before he was too shut down by the Northeast United midfield. Chansa also made a difference with his engine, once he put a lid on trying to physically intimidate every opponent. After he stopped giving away fouls, he actually became the archetypical Box to Box midfielder.

About the 80 minute mark, everyone got tired with the heavy ISL schedule taking a toll. Some more substitutions were made and both teams seemed to accept that one point will be good enough but the fatigue at the end of the game was palpable.

Certain rules also had a role to play in creating that fatigue for both teams. For instance, in an ISL match, both teams must have at least five domestic i.e. Indian players on the pitch. The rule, while good for the development of Indian football, does mean tied hands for managers. Isn’t that a nugget you can throw in your friend’s face the next time he shows off his football knowledge to you in the middle of a match? I’ll try to give you one fact like this with every post on this blog.

All in all, the match turned out to be far better than what I expected (I’m used to watching the European – Spain and England – standards of football). Some expectations were met. I thought the foreign names would dominate the game and they did. Only time will tell whether some fairy dust (experience) from those legends will brush off onto Indian players’ shoulders. I did see Pires and Capdevila trying to be generals on the pitch while Koke had a calmness to him that helped his team. Here’s to hoping the Indian players will show some flare and technique in the future matches. Cheers!

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