Foreign Signings in the ISL Part I – The First 5 Clubs

[Date: 03-9-2017]

So, I will be dividing the review of foreign signings into two posts. There are 10 teams, after all and every one of them has made foreign signings (Yes, even NEUTD FC…).

In this post, I will focus on Amar, Tomar, Kolkata (remember to use sarcasm tone), Kerala Blasters FC, Delhi Dynamos (haha Vogliotti), Mumbai City FC, and Northeast United FC (get someone, FFS).

From the outset, let me say that I like the business done by the previous year’s finalists, ATK and KBFC. They’ve gotten in big names and more importantly, they’ve gotten in some very effective players. The dark horse in this group will be Delhi Dynamos. Even with the Vogliotti faux-glioti fiasco, their objective of playing the South American brand of football interests me. I want to see how it works in India particularly considering our climate. Let’s go then. Continue reading

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NorthEast United FC vs. FC Goa Review: The Battle of the Sweet Pass

Underdogs Win the Battle of the Sweet Pass

Both NorthEast United FC and FC Goa can be said to be pass masters since they rely on a quick passing game to get their goals. Their passing tendencies weren’t the only similarities between them in this game, though. Both teams had a number of Brazilian players and both of them had Brazilian central defenders as their captains.

NorthEast United FC went into this game looking for their first win over FC Goa in three years and they got it in style! FC Goa huffed and puffed throughout the game but they couldn’t beat the Indian national football team regular goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

In fact, the difference between the two teams, in my opinion, was between the posts. FC Goa missed their last two year’s first keeper, Jan Seda tremendously in this game as Kattimani’s limitations were exposed by NorthEast United FC glaringly. The young Indian keeper could be blamed for both NorthEast United FC’s goals with the first one being obvious and the second one showing a certain lack of quality or, at the very least, confidence.

What the aftermath of today’s game is for both FC Goa and Kattimani is yet to be seen. The young keeper could show resilience and come back stronger or his career could fade away from this point on.

Team News for NorthEast United FC and FC Goa

lucio-silva-fc-goaWith respect to the team news, Nelo Vingada pulled a rabbit out of the hat by replacing star player Nicolas Leandro Velez by Wellington Gomes Priori. the logical conclusion for this change has to be a lack of fitness levels which isn’t something new for the Indian Super League. Apart from Velez, all other NorthEast United FC players continued their stint in the team.

Since I didn’t cover the first game of the season, I’m going to comment on the presence of Subrata Paul in the team over Rehenesh TP. It seems like Vingada has decided to go for seniority and experience over performance this season. It is justified in a way because when a new season begins, form goes out of the window. Rehenesh, though, will make a good deputy for Paul.

Zico’s first team of the season was without the mercurial and highly talented Romeo Fernandes who was planted firmly on the bench. FC Goa was also without Gregory Arnolin through injury. Goa would depend on Mandar Rao Desai and Trindade Goncalves to be their creative forces since their style involves a lot of wing play.

Zico’s stamp on the FC Goa team was more than evident as the “Ravers” (you lot know what I’m talking about. We can turn that into “Reavers” if they dominate the league) contained no less than five Brazilians and that doesn’t include Reinaldo Da Cruz Oliveira. In fact, today’s game had an overpowering Brazilian flavour. There were eight Brazilians on the pitch today – an amazing number.

FC Goa’s Diwali Moment for Northeast United FC

The game began with a nice piece of skill from one of the least likely places in the form of Raju Gaikwad. Gaikwad pulled a nutmeg on the man closing him. It was highly unlikely simply because Gaikwad is supposed to be a centre back who was playing in the right full position. It’s almost like Ryan Shawcross showing footballing skill on the football pitch.

FC Goa won the first corner of the game and made the first chance because of it. It was near post glancing header from Trindade that was blocked for another corner that amounted to nothing.

NorthEast United FC showed what they can do soon after as they created a chance for last game’s goal scorer, Katsumi Yusa. The cross came from the left flank and landed for Yusa who was placed beyond the far post. By the time, he brought the ball down, Laxmikanth Kattimani had rushed into him to smother the snapshot. Kattimani decided to come when the ball was still in the air. It was a good decision too!

However, his decision-making soon let him down as NorthEast United FC took the lead through one of the biggest goalkeeping gaffes I’ve ever seen. Kattimani was closed down by Emiliano Alfaro. It was the lamest clearing ever! Side-footed pass that was blocked by Alfaro. The rebound went straight into the net. Kattimani gets laughed at and the lead goes to the north-easterners. NorthEast United FC 1 – 0 FC Goa

FC Goa Dominate to No Avail

Emiliano Alfaro, NorthEast United FCIn the 28th minute, one of the Brazilians on the pitch got injured and subbed. Mailson Alves had to be replaced by NorthEast United FC’s marquee player, Didier Zokora.

Soon after, despite being a goal down, FC Goa started taking control of the game. They fashioned a number of ‘almost’ chances for their players with Joffre receiving most of them through his shadowy movement off the ball. The best of these chances was created by Desai’s beautiful dribbling skill and an even better cross. He threaded the needle for Joffre with his laser-guided cross but Joffre’s shot was well saved by Paul.

In fact, FC Goa’s dominance of NorthEast United FC started to tell near the end of the first half. Lucio found himself with acres of space on the far post from a free kick. Unfortunately, instead of striking the ball, he tried squaring it. Even so, one of the NorthEast United FC players almost put it into the net in his bid to clear it. It was only Paul who managed to save his blushes.

FC Goa Huffed and Puffed…

Subrata Paul, NorthEast United FCFC Goa showed their intent before the ball was kicked in the second half by bringing on Romeo for Sanjay Balmuchu. It was an attacking move that we’ve all come to expect from Zico as Balmuchu was a defender at the wing position and Romeo is easily one of the most attacking players in FC Goa’s ranks.

The first real goalmouth action came because of a long-range shot by Trindade from the midfield. The shot had venom in it and it was swerving wickedly too. This was followed by two back to back and downright amazing saves from Paul. The first was from a point blank shot taken from near the penalty spot and the second was another long-range, swerving shot.

Those saves showed the importance of a reliable keeper. The only difference between the teams till now was the difference in quality between Paul and Kattimani. In fact, if the latter hadn’t made that mistake, FC Goa would have been considered to be favourites to win this game. Still, ifs and buts don’t really mean much, especially since there was a huge difference in their respective experiences.

…But NorthEast United FC Brought the House Down

In the 62nd minute, the difference in goalkeeping experience told again as Alfaro was set free by Holicharan Narzary with a sublime touch. The ball was played into Narzary who flicked it with the outside of his boot into the path of the marauding Alfaro. Alfaro ran through and punched the ball through Kattimani’s legs in what was an extremely cool finish. That was Alfaro’s second goal. NorthEast United FC 2 – 0 FC Goa

This was probably the first chance that NorthEast United FC got in the whole of the second half and they scored from it. It’s never nice when a keeper lets a ball slip between his legs even though it’s a staple strategy for many strikers. In fact, it’s also one of those things that keepers train to avoid. Everybody has a bad day at work sometimes, so we’ll cut Kattimani some slack.

A Predictable End to an Unpredictable Game

It was almost like the second goal knocked the stuffing out of FC Goa because they efforts even stopped being penetrative. Moreover, in their rush to score and NorthEast United FC’s rush to stop them, rough tackles crept in both sides’ games.

NorthEast United FC fashioned another beautiful chance as Velez broke the offside trap and produced a no-look square cross for Alfaro. However, Gaikwad, who had a wonderful game for FC Goa managed to block the shot from point blank range.

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How Have the ISL Marquee Players Performed This Season – Part II

The Bottom Dwellers Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC

The first part of this series was all about the two best performing teams in the Indian Super League i.e. the champions Atletico De Kolkata and the runners up Kerala Blasters FC. In the second part, we will focus on the two worst performing teams i.e. Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC.

Despite having a team with three different special stars, Mumbai City FC couldn’t perform in the league and the reason was twofold. First was that the fitness of two of those three stars was in question and the second was that they couldn’t build a team around those stars.

Mumbai City FC is also a prime example of how a team that looks good on paper may not perform so well on the pitch.

The second team covered in this post is Northeast United FC. There final position in the table is far more understandable than that of Mumbai City FC. They didn’t have the kind of funds that the bigwigs of the league enjoyed.

Moreover, their focus was more on building a team than building a team around individual stars. That is a long term task and the results of that can’t be expected in a period of three months.

The players have to train with each other and play with each other so they can get an understanding of how each of them makes runs, positions himself, passes, or crosses.

As is natural, the performances of the ISL marquee players of these teams are similar to the performances of their teams or vice versa. Consider.

Mumbai City FC’s Fredrik Ljungberg

Fredrik Ljungberg, Mumbai City FC

Fredrik Ljungberg, Mumbai City FC

I doubt there was any ISL marquee player who deserved the moniker more than Fredrik Ljungberg or who let the fans down as much.

The ex-Invincible was very poor simply because he was injured for most of the time. In fact, Ljungberg only made 4 appearances in the league.

That doesn’t even amount to 4 games as that would mean playing 360 minutes. Ljungberg only played 169 minutes. In terms of minutes, that’s less than 2 games.

How is a man supposed to make a difference in less than 3 hours? Even dates ask more time than that to evaluate whether a man is worth it or not. Heck the Indian bureaucracy takes that much time to have their lunch!

So, I’m not even going to bother giving you the shrivelled fruits of my research into Ljungberg’s statistics. Whatever little difference the man made to his team, he made it through his reputation and not his footballing skills.

Expected Rating**: 8.5 / 10

Final Rating: 3 / 10

It’s no secret that I’m an Arsenal fan. Any Arsenal fan would have huge expectations from Ljungberg. I have to be honest at the same time though. Ljungberg is another one of those players who relied a lot on their pace. Ljungberg is also a special case because he was at his best when he had other players who could contribute with subtle interplays. Since he left Arsenal, he hasn’t had that kind of teammates which is why his performance has dropped. So, my expectations were mainly due to my memories of him.

Mumbai City FC’s Nicolas Anelka

Nicolas Anelka, Mumbai City FC

Nicolas Anelka, Mumbai City FC

Nicolas Anelka is another ex-Arsenal ISL marquee player who arrived in India amidst a lot of fanfare. He possibly has what could be the worst case of wanderlust in the world and it was no surprise to me when it was announced that Anelka will be coming to India.

Just to put his wanderlust into perspective, in a career spanning 18 years, Anelka has changed clubs a whopping 13 times! What’s even more interesting is that he is yet to call time on his career.

Anelka’s stint with Mumbai City FC was similar to a lot of his other stints with mediocre clubs especially in his twilight years. Before he came to Mumbai, Anelka was playing for West Bromwich Albion.

He played 12 games for them in a season and managed to score 2 goals, which is exactly how many he scored for Mumbai City FC in 7 games. While this may not make it seem like Anelka stood out in the league, he did in one manner.

Anelka’s Shots on Target percentage is the best in the league if you only consider players with more than 10 shots. His percentage is 84.6 and the closest anyone else has come is Ranti Martins of FC Goa who had 81.8. Both played the same number of games, so it’s a level playing field.

While Anelka’s shot percentage may be very good, he didn’t look that effective to me. After seeing his numbers and recalling the way he was playing, I believe I now know why.

Anelka’s biggest problem at Mumbai City FC was lack of supply. His teammates couldn’t supply him with the chances that he needed to score goals. The result was that he shuffled to the flanks and dropped into midfield.

I personally noted that he either came to defensive midfield position or went to the flanks. While I don’t have the passing numbers, I did see that he crossed a lot. Anelka’s crosses were particularly high. In fact, he and Iain Hume were the only two strikers in top 20 for crosses in the league.

Anelka has always been a pacey finisher. He has always needed someone to supply him with opportunities to finish to be effective in a game of football. He didn’t get it at Mumbai City FC, which is why he didn’t light up the league.

Expected Rating**: 8.5 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

Anelka is a big name and my expectations were based on that. Moreover, when I saw him last he still looked relatively fit to me. The management of Mumbai probably thought that he would combine well with Ljungberg which didn’t really work out because of Ljungberg’s absence.

Mumbai City FC’s Manuel Friedrich

Manuel Friedrich, Mumbai City FC

Manuel Friedrich, Mumbai City FC

Manuel Friedrich is a part of this list of ISL marquee players mainly because he has played for teams like Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, and the German national team. Each of those teams has been at the forefront of German football at one time or another in the last decade or so and if a player has turned out for them then he has to be good.

While it’s true that Friedrich has never been treated like a star, he does have consistency on his side. Statistically, Friedrich is another individual who doesn’t set the world alight. What he does, he does well, and he does it quietly.

He was a central defender for Mumbai City FC and did a very good job at the heart of it all. You might contradict with the fact that his team ended up conceding the most number of goals in the league at 21 but you would be forgetting that defence is a team’s assignment and not just one defender.

Friedrich has a penchant for scoring crucial goals when all hope is lost. He did it for Bayer, he did it for Dortmund, he did it for Mainz, and he did it for Mumbai. His goal came in the 75th minute against Atletico De Kolkata when Mumbai City FC needed to win to stay in contention.

While they didn’t make it in the end because they had left themselves too much to do, Friedrich did shine in that game against the team that would go on to become champions.

Expected Rating**: 5 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t know Friedrich before the ISL much. I had heard of him, of course, but that isn’t enough. This is why I’ve put my expected rating to a neutral of 5.

Northeast United FC’s Joan Capdevila

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila is one of the true blue idols who come from humble beginnings but end up becoming stars. He started out in the 3rd division in Spain with his home town team called Tarrega.

He went on to represent Espanyol, Atletico De Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna, Villareal, Benfica (Portugal), and the Spain national team in the next 18 years. Such was the popularity of Capdevila in his home town that they named the stadium after him.

Capdevila is a popular figure in Spain. He made his name during his stint with Deportivo La Coruna. That is also where I first saw him. I still remember him bombing down the left flank to the worrying beats of the defenders’ hearts.

While Capdevila isn’t as physically fit now as he was in his prime, he was still stable and steady on the left side of Northeast United FC’s central defensive trio or duo depending on which way Ricki Herbert chose to deploy his team.

The fitness of Capdevila was a matter of concern as is the case with players of his age but he still managed to string together 12 appearances for the Highlanders. Essentially, while Capdevila didn’t stand out, he wasn’t fish out of water either. He was never a player with a lot of creativity but he did what he did consistently which is how he played for Northeast United. His stint in the ISL must be viewed in that light.

Expected Rating**: 7 / 10

Final Rating: 7 / 10

I knew Capdevila from having watched him in the La Liga and Spain national team earlier so I wasn’t surprised with his steadiness. Moreover, I know he isn’t the most creative player so his lack of influence on the attacking side of the pitch didn’t surprise me either. All in all, his performance was exactly what I had expected.

What to Expect From the Next Analyses of ISL Marquee Players on ISL Blog

This analysis of ISL marquee players from the bottom dwellers didn’t break any new ground although Mumbai City FC’s plight did become more obvious. They were plagued by injuries to key players which is why they had such a poor showing this season. Similarly, Northeast United FC tried to do the best they could with their limited resources and I, for one, liked them for it.

In the next instalment, we’ll analyse the ISL marquee players of Chennaiyin FC which they had quite a few of. In fact, I believe them to be the most star studded team in the ISL. You’ll see what I mean. Stay tuned…

**Expected Rating: Rating I expected the player would get at the beginning of the league.

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Kerala Blasters Northeast United an Eventful Match Ends in A Draw

If you thought Mumbai City FC’s lot yesterday was desperate, you need to see Northeast United FC in the Indian Super League table and make some calculations. It is do or die for Northeast United but even Kerala Blasters FC can’t afford anything less than a win.

Northeast United Get Capdevila Back; Kerala Blasters Lose James

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United

Northeast United showed their intent well before the match with their team sheet.

They picked 3 strikers in the form of Durga Boro*, James Keene, and Seiminlen Doungel.

They also welcomed back Joan Capdevila to their defence and must have been feeling especially thankful for it.

That good feeling was balanced off by the absence of their playmaker Koke. Kerala Blasters started without David James between the sticks, despite of what he had said in his pre-game press conference.

If that wasn’t loss enough, their team sheet didn’t have the likes of Raphael Romey, Sandesh Jhingan, and Colin Falvey either. They made massive changes which could have come back to bite them in the arse but they didn’t.

When I saw the team sheets, I immediately thought that the game would be one of those end to end affairs as opposed to being one where everyone is trying not to lose before trying to win. Oh, how they would prove me right and wrong at the same time. They played an entertaining game but couldn’t score.

Two Teams with the Desire to Win

Milagres Gonsalves, Kerala Blasters

Milagres Gonsalves, Kerala Blasters

The first good moment of the first half came from Milagres Gonsalves in the 8th minute.

Iain Hume found him with a wonderful through ball. Milagres was free to run at the keeper but he was offside by a hair’s breadth.

It was symptomatic of the game because Kerala Blasters were on top in the early stages of the first half. Even though Kerala Blasters were on top, it was only in relative terms. It was like this. Kerala Blasters would attack a couple of times.

Third time, Northeast United would steal the ball and launch a counterattack. The whole game was a case of rinse and repeat of this pattern.

Northeast United Shade It In Terms Of Chances

James Keene, Northeast United

James Keene, Northeast United

On one of those counterattacks, Northeast United won a corner. The corner came in and was headed well into the far corner only to be cleared by a man on the line.

The clearance dropped over Sandip Nandy who fumbled it. It stayed out though.

Northeast United would get another great chance again a minute later through one of their most eager players. Kondwani Mtonga, I think it was, set the man who likes this song free in the box. The player got a wonderful shot off that was saved by the keeper**.

Kerala Blasters got their own chance from a corner in the form of Nirmal Chettri. It was a good run from Chettri into the 6 yard box but he couldn’t control his header enough.

The first half was brought to a close with a super shot from Felipe from outside the box. I didn’t know he had that in his locker. The keeper saved the shot unfortunately.

Poor Finishing Defines the Game

Stephen Pearson, Kerala Blasters

Stephen Pearson, Kerala Blasters

Within 3 minutes of the second half, Kerala Blasters fashioned a chance for themselves. Penn Orji’s cross came from their left flank and glanced off Hume’s head.

This was the 3rd time I think that Hume has been unable to reach a good cross. He is only 5’ 7” only after all.

Will someone please explain to me why Kerala Blasters’ game is focused on crossing from the flanks? Could someone please tell me who their big target man is? Hume and Milagres are both lightweight runners.

Kerala Blasters also had a penalty claim a little while later which was turned down. Right after that, Stephen Pearson spurned a sitter. The freekick was dropped into the far post from the right side. It dropped perfectly for the onrushing Pearson who, for some reason, went for power. He could have just side footed it into the net. With finishing like that, it’s no wonder that the game ended goalless.

I don’t know what magic wand James waved at his players but they seemed to have more purpose in the second half. They crafted chance after chance in the first 15 minutes of the second half and only poor finishing kept the score nil-nil.

Kerala Blasters Dominate the Second Half

Nirmal Chettri, Northeast United

Nirmal Chettri, Northeast United

Both head coaches tried to influence the game from the side-lines. James brought on Michael Chopra while Ricki Herbert sent in Alen Deory. The best chance of the game fell to Kerala Blasters.

It was again off a corner and it was again Chettri. Chettri came into the box like a freight train and jumped like an airplane before heading the ball like a bullet train.

It was a great header but the problem was that it hit the outside of the post and went out for a goal kick.

A couple of inches to the inside and it would’ve been a goal. Actually, I wanted it to be because it was a great bit of skill and desire from another Indian player. I want Indians to get as much attention as they can in the ISL.

Northeast United’s best chance came in the 73rd minute when James Keene was set free after he broke the offside trap. The keeper, Nandy, was on top of it again as he rushed in, made himself big, and blocked Keene’s effort.

The Referee Makes a Hash of Things

Michael Chopra, Kerala Blasters FC

Michael Chopra, Kerala Blasters FC

The biggest controversy of the game came in the 75th minute. Chopra, who I don’t like if you don’t know, tackled Keene from behind in a dirty, filthy, stinking tackle. It was a malicious tackle to which Keene reacted aggressively and justifiably.

He raised his hands and pushed at Chopra’s face, who flopped like a spineless fish. When the dust settled Keene was sent off and Chopra was given a yellow card. Oh, and btw, the game was ruined. It was 11 vs. 10 from this point on.

I’m sorry but I don’t agree with that decision from the referee. I mean if you want to give a red card then both of them deserve it. You can’t give one a yellow and the other a red. There’s no place for such tackles in such a beautiful game and they need to be stamped*** out in the Indian Super League before they grow in frequency.

I don’t know what the rules are in the Indian Super League regarding retrospective punishment but Chopra must be punished for that tackle. It was a career ending tackle that could’ve broken a leg.

Kerala Blasters Fail to Get the Goal

After that controversy, the game became a little strange. I consistently saw more Kerala Blasters player near Northeast United’s keeper, Rehenesh TP than his defenders. Moreover, there were lots of gaps in the midfield too. I think fatigue had become a problem by then as well.

The last 5 minutes were all about Kerala Blasters attacking and Northeast United defending. It was like a practice match. Northeast United still managed to make another great chance. Mtonga had the keeper on a one on one but he fluffed his lines.

In the end, Kerala Blasters couldn’t make their one man advantage count and the two teams played out an entertaining draw. They had a number of chances in the last few minutes but hey just couldn’t finish them well enough.

I don’t think either team will be happy with this result. They both needed 3 points but only got 1. This means that there is no movement in the league today and the table remains the same.

*Durga Borough – sounds like an English Premier League in Kolkata, doesn’t it? Meh…

**In case you’ve not figured it out. It was James Keene.

***All puns intended.

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FC Goa Show Northeast United FC How it’s Done

This was a game which both teams needed to win but that was especially the case for FC Goa because this would be their last home game. Their final two games are away against Atletico De Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC which is why they needed to ensure that they got 3 points today.

With 3 points, FC Goa could’ve gone above Atletico De Kolkata into the second position in the Indian Super League and they didn’t disappoint their fans or, for that matter, neutrals. Northeast United FC would, in contrast, be ruing having lost the chance to snatch the 3rd position from FC Goa.

Pre-match Team News from Both Sides

Robert Pires, FC Goa

Robert Pires, FC Goa

There were changes in the starting line-ups from both sides. FC Goa again chose to not play Robert Pires but started with their hero with a brace from their last game, Miroslav Slepicka.

Tolgay Ozbey, their regular starting striker was injured in the last game which gave Slepicka the chance to shine and did he shine on like a crazy diamond!

Watching this match, I gained an understanding of why Pires isn’t playing for FC Goa. The primary purpose of Pires is to be creative.

Santos is currently doing his job because he brings creativity and defensive nous to the Goan midfield.

If Zico chooses to play Santos and Pires both then their midfield becomes too lightweight. Bikramjit Singh is a midfield snapper who shields the back four and tries to win the ball back. Essentially, Santos with his greater work rate and tackling ability is why Pires is out of the starting line-up.

Northeast United also had to make one change due to injury. They started with Aiborlang Khongjee because Joan Capdevila is injured. Their other change was Isaac Chansa who took the place of Seiminlen Doungel (Len) in the team.

FC Goa Start Brightly

Within a minute of the first half, Massamba Lo Sambou made his first unforced error. This was expected from before the game and Massamba would do so a number of times in the rest of the match.

Northeast United FC were pegged back brilliantly by FC Goa early on in the first half and they were having trouble coping. Isn’t Northeast United the team known for their high press? Well, FC Goa were giving them a taste of their own medicine and forcing them to make mistakes. In the first 15 minutes FC Goa looked more likely to score.

Northeast United FC Tighten Up

Miguel Angelo Moito Garcia, Northeast United FC

Miguel Angelo Moito Garcia, Northeast United FC

After the initial domination from FC Goa, Northeast United FC got a grip on the game. How did they do it? They did it by putting a straightjacket on Santos.

Effectively, Santos was the honey and the Northeast United FC’s midfielders the bears on him.

Every time Santos received the ball from one of his teammates, someone from Northeast United would be on him like a flash. There were even times when he was double teamed.

More importantly, the Highlanders were rotating personnel on Santos which reduced the chances of them being yellow carded. It was a good tactic.

Romeo Fernandes Scores a Peach of a Goal!

Romeo Fernandes, FC Goa

Romeo Fernandes, FC Goa

In the 33rd minute, guess who showed up with the goal. It was Romeo! I am becoming a fan of this bloke. Just when I was thinking that he’s been quiet and was about to write it here, Romeo showed up with a beautiful goal.

He moved inside, picked up the ball, passed it to Slepicka, and ran into Northeast United’s 18 yard box pointing franticly where he wanted return the ball played.

The return pass from Slepicka was exquisite and the finish from Romeo was breath-taking. He took the ball on the fly and stroked it into the far corner. The ball clipped the far post before going into the net.

That goal deserved to be in the UEFA Champions League, it was that good! It’ll just have to settle for being the 100th goal of the Indian Super League. FC Goa 1 – 0 Northeast United FC!

FC Goa Double Their Lead

Miroslav Slepicka, FC Goa

Miroslav Slepicka, FC Goa

Northeast United FC’s response was to throw on James Keene for the injured Kondwani Mtonga. Mtonga is a crucial player for Northeast United, if you don’t know that. He’s their defensive midfielder and they rely on him to keep their midfield tight.

They did get a good chance to equalise from Adinga and Durga Boro both. Koke spotted Adinga completely free in the box who unbelievably decided to cross the ball first time instead of shooting it or taking it down. The resultant shot from Durga was blocked.

FC Goa turned on the magic once again just before the half time. It was a wonderful counterattack. Would you believe that it came from a Northeast United corner? Jan Seda caught the ball and launched a rocket into Romeo.

Romeo was the most forward player and he didn’t have any support. He took the ball and ran at 3 of Northeast United’s defenders. He beat them and went ahead. His cross caused all kinds of ruckus before Slepicka won the ball from a Northeast United’s player and scored with a shot into the far corner. FC Goa 2 – 0 Northeast United FC.

A Balanced Second Half

In the second half, FC Goa seemed to have decided to control the game a little more. They pulled back a little but it didn’t mean that they didn’t attack any more. It just meant that that balanced their attacks a little more.

It just meant that Northeast United got to attack as much as FC Goa. However, it also meant that the gaps in the midfield that were clearly visible in the first half were no longer visible so much.

Northeast United FC needed to halve the deficit and they needed it desperately so Ricki Herbert made two more attacking changes. He brought on Tomas Josl and Alen Deory for Chansa and Adinga.

Santos Continues to Shine

Andre Santos, FC Goa

Andre Santos, FC Goa

Made no difference though. FC Goa continued in the same vein. They had a good call for a handball on Massamba when Romeo let loose a vicious shot from outside the box.

My opinion after seeing the replays was that that was a deliberate handball from Massamba. He was inside the box too. It should’ve been a penalty. Northeast United got lucky on that one.

Romeo then dropped in a pinpoint cross on Slepicka’s head in the middle of the box! Slepicka headed it wide though. How good is this guy?

Romeo Fernandes is lighting up this league. I haven’t seen another Indian player perform like this with such consistency. Simply brilliant!

Santos had been ever-present throughout this game. He controlled the midfield and each of FC Goa’s attacks. He deservedly topped it all off with a goal. Good exchange occurred between Mandar Rao Desai and Narayan Das on Goa’s left flank before the latter’s cross into Santos. Santos took a touch to control it, another to protect it, and with the third one he put it into the near bottom corner. FC Goa 3 – 0 Northeast United FC.

Before Santos’s goal Northeast United FC had a couple of claims for penalty. Star Sports didn’t really show the replay of those incidents but in the first glance, it looked like the Northeast United players involved went down much too easily.

FC Goa All But Guarantee Their Presence in the Semis

After Santos’s goal, the fight died out of Northeast United FC’s players while FC Goa’s players started to showboat a little. After the 80th minute, you could see that everyone was tired. It was a particularly hot day too.

The game continued like that till the final whistle. With this win FC Goa take the 2nd spot in the league with pride. They’ve overtaken Atletico De Kolkata, who’ll get their chance to take it back tomorrow when they visit Delhi Dynamos FC.

More importantly, they’re 5 points clear from the 5th spot in the league which means that they have a great chance of being in the knockout phase.

Northeast United FC, you have to say, can kiss their chances of being in the knockout phases goodbye now. I feel bad for the team with lowest budget in the league. I think they’ll come good in the next few seasons though.

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