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.


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

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

The Champs Atletico De Kolkata and the ISL Finalists Kerala Blasters FC

ISL Marquee Players

Many More than just 8 ISL Marquee Players

Let me start with a few disclaimers. This will NOT be a short post. It will NOT be only about ‘ISL Marquee Players’. It will NOT be generic.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain what I meant. By saying that this will not be a short post, I mean that I will actually do some research into each player I am going to mention here. I plan to check stats and even some videos for this post.

By saying this this will not be only about ‘ISL Marquee Players’, I mean that I will go beyond the 8 player restriction that that official term triggers. I will expand that purview to include other players. How will I decide who gets to be researched? Well, that’s my prerogative. This means that I may leave out some players that you think deserved to be included. If you think I did, give me a shout.

By saying that it will not be generic, I mean that you shouldn’t expect this post to be like the generic crap that many ‘news websites’ (I call them link junkies) are churning out under the guise of ISL Marquee Player reviews.

I have shortlisted 17 individuals who, I believe, need to be treated as ISL Marquee Players and one surprise, which makes a total of 18 people. Naturally, since I can’t create a single long and winding post that never ends, I’ll be breaking this one down to smaller pieces. In this instalment, you get the two ISL finalists.

So, without further ado, let’s get down and dirty.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Luis Garcia

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Kolkata’s Luis Garcia did what I call the intangibles. He wasn’t at the end of the good things that Kolkata did but he was neither negligible because he made his team tick. What I mean by intangibles is that what he did wasn’t directed at appearing in statistic tables.

He only provided two assists and scored twice, of which one was a penalty kick. He wasn’t the most prolific shooter and he didn’t even get the majority of his shots on target. With players like these, you need step outside the general view. You have to see them in action in real games. You have to see their indirect influence so to speak.

Luis Garcia’s influence on his team, while not exemplary, wasn’t negligible either. Every time he was on the pitch, I could see Kolkata’s passing quality becoming that much better. All you need to see Garcia’s value to his team is see the games in which he isn’t playing.

Kolkata’s attacks were more blunted and ineffectual without him. They simply lacked the guile that is needed to unlock defences. At the same time, he could’ve done more.

If you’ve seen Luis Garcia play at his peak then you would know that his biggest strengths were his agility and speed both of which are not available to him anymore. It is because of this reason that I’m not surprised with his underwhelming performance. I still had expected a little more.

Expected Rating**: 7.5 / 10

Final Rating: 6 / 10

I expected him to do more mainly because I hadn’t seen him for a long time and remembered his days in the Liverpool and Atletico De Madrid jerseys.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Borja Fernandez

Borja, Atletico De Kolkata

Borja, Atletico De Kolkata

I remember when I used to think that Borja Fernandez was a very good player. He had just broken through the Real Madrid first team then.

He ended up playing only 23 games for them over a period of 3 seasons. That was 2003, a period when I was easily wowed by football. Nowadays, I’m a little more jaded having seen the Invincibles which I believe was the epitome of football.

Borja was a mixed bag of a player in the last 3 months but I think he fit in perfectly with Kolkata’s philosophy. You most probably don’t know what I’m talking about because you haven’t seen the stats yet.

Borja was the best tackler in the league. He had the maximum number of tackles at 63. He was far ahead too because the second position is held by Denson Devadas of Chennaiyin FC with only 53.

However, answer me this. What happens when you have a player who is free with his tackles? Why, you get loads of fouls! That’s exactly what Borja did too. He was second in the Indian Super League with fouls committed at 36.

Who was he behind? His darling teammate Fikru Lemessa. How behind was he? By only 1 foul! So, the top two foulers in ISL were from Atletico De Kolkata. If you’ve been reading my reports, you’ll know that I’ve been castigating Atletico De Kolkata for their overly physical game. With these numbers I rest my case on that debate.

Expected Rating**: 6 / 10

Final Rating: 6.5 / 10

I didn’t think Borja would end up having the kind of influence that he did in the end but a lot of that is because of the way his team was setup. His team’s style of play and his style of play were perfectly complimentary which is why he turned in a better season than expected.

Kerala Blasters FC’s David James

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

You could say that David James is a legendary British keeper. He still holds the record for most clean sheets in the English Premier League and is 3rd in terms of all time appearances.

In the yellow of Kerala Blasters FC, despite his old age (he is 44 years old just in case you didn’t know), James still showed why he is a legend. It is unheard of for players to play up to 44 years, even if they’re keepers but James did and did a fair good job of it too.

James played 12 games for Kerala, an achievement in itself but kept the opposition from scoring in 5 of those games. Overall, he allowed 10 goals in at an average of less than a goal per game. Those are good numbers even if you don’t consider James’ age.

The best part about James, though, was his performance as a manager. Granted, Kerala Blasters FC struggled to score goals during the league phase of the ISL but the way that they turned up in the ISL semi final was a coaching master class from James.

Before the ISL semi finals, I said that James was being selfish as a coach by ensuring clean sheets and that he needs to open up his team a little more to score goals. That is exactly what happened in the ISL semi finals as Kerala Blasters blitzed Chennaiyin FC into a catatonic state. You could see the Chennaiyin players reeling on the ground at the Kerala Blasters onslaught.

I will always remember the way in which James turned around his team’s style. I’ve never seen such a drastic change made in such a small time with the same manager and players being available.

In the end, James, I think, did justice to his legend and may well be on his way to adding to that legend as a manager. I won’t be surprised if he gets a chance as a manager in England soon.

Expected Rating**: 6.5 / 10

Final Rating: 8 / 10

I expected James to do well as a goalkeeper but not as a manager. He was decent as a keeper but brilliant as a manager. Together, he exceeded my expectations!

Watch this space for More ISL Marquee Players’ Analyses

So, this was my analysis for my ISL marquee players from the two ISL finalists. Don’t sit back just yet because the next post will be an analysis of the ISL marquee players from the bottom dwellers of the league Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC. Keep watching this space.

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


Preview: Will FC Goa Overcome A Jaded Atletico De Kolkata?

FC Goa Crest

So, FC Goa will take on the highly physical and masterful Atletico De Kolkata today evening. FC Goa need to attack from the whistle while Atletico De Kolkata will try to quieten the crowd with their momentum killing strategies.

However, I don’t expect FC Goa to stumble in this one like Chennaiyin FC did yesterday. Despite doing all the hard work, Chennaiyin threw it away in the end and I believe that was a combination of multiple things such as an incomplete squad and injuries along with emotional, mental, and physical fatigue.

Why FC Goa Won’t Falter Like Chennaiyin

Kerala Blasters Win against Chennaiyin

Kerala Blasters Win against Chennaiyin

There is a big difference in how Chennaiyin came into their game and how FC Goa are coming into theirs.

Chennaiyin were plagued by injuries and the loss of pace.

They sorely missed Stiven Mendoza yesterday and I think Materazzi would’ve been better off bringing in a pacey striker in instead of a defender like Alessandro Nesta.

I have a feeling the strategy he used yesterday i.e. big burly defenders as an outlet through diagonals, has been in his pocket for a considerable amount of time.

After all, he brought in Nesta for exactly this eventuality. With Mendy and himself playing in forward roles, they would’ve been short on bodies in defence and Nesta solved that problem for him.

FC Goa have no such issues. They don’t have any injuries (as far as I know, correct me if you know something), and their players are all on a high because they haven’t lost a single game in their last 9 games.

Also, Zico has a well-balanced squad at his disposal which is something Materazzi couldn’t rely on. Materazzi had players playing out of positions for a while now. Sooner or later, it had to come back and bite him in the arse and so it did.

Three Times No Cigar; Fourth Time Lucky?

FC Goa vs. Atletico De Kolkata

FC Goa vs. Atletico De Kolkata

FC Goa has played Atletico De Kolkata 3 times already this season and they haven’t managed to notch a single win in those games.

The first match occurred when they were on a poor run, the second was inconsequential for them because they had qualified, and the third was the ISL semi final in which Atletico De Kolkata were set up to frustrate.

I expect Habas the Henchman to continue that trend so it’ll be up to FC Goa to break them down. Even though they haven’t beaten Kolkata till now, they have the capacity to and they showed it in the first leg.

It was FC Goa who were attacking and putting pressure on Kolkata even though Kolkata were playing at home. What’s more, FC Goa essentially did it for most of the 90 minutes.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Negative Strategies

Atletico De Kolkata's Attack Bears Fruit

Atletico De Kolkata’s Attack Bears Fruit

I have to be honest with you. I have a bone to pick with Atletico De Kolkata. My issue with them is their negative and physical style of play.

They are making football look drab, dull, and boring in a country that needs it to be as entertaining as possible right now.

I won’t be surprised if Habas the Henchman is actually setting out to stretch the game into extra time and penalties because that’s the only way he knows his limited team will get one over FC Goa.

In a way it makes sense because I would peg his players to be the fittest in the league after Northeast United FC. FC Goa don’t come close in terms of fitness. So, the longer Kolkata stretches the game the better their chances will be to win.

I would like nothing better for Habas the Henchman to prove me wrong though. I would like nothing better than to see Atletico De Kolkata coming out of the traps like the hounds of hell are after them.

I want them to take the game to the Goans. I want them to show us all the beauty of their football. I am afraid that this is only a pipe dream similar to the pipes and truncheons that aggressive players from Kolkata will be carrying.

I have one thing to say to Atletico De Kolkata players and senior management. Please, oh pretty please; come out of the lockers to play football not some Aztec version of the game. There’s no place for tlachtli in India please.

What’s The Status of the Two Squads?

Narayan Das Keeps Good Company

Narayan Das Keeps Good Company

FC Goa seem to have most of their players ready and raring to go except for Narayan Das.

He’s ruled out for this game because he got injured early in the last match.

This means that Zico will have to deploy Zohib Amiri, the way he did in the middle of the last game.

I see only one other left sided defender in the Goan team and I doubt that Zico will want to use Andre Santos in that capacity.

While FC Goa’s squad is mostly fit, Atletico De Kolkata’s is in some sort of a trouble. Habas the Henchman has revealed that Fikru Lemessa won’t be available for the second leg just like he wasn’t available for the first one.

Fikru Unavailable

Fikru Unavailable

This means that they don’t have his physicality to rely on. Also, there may be a few other injuries in their squad. Who it is exactly is still not clear.

Although, I think the coach may be referring to Arnab Mondal and Biswajit Saha who were missing the last time out.

While they have four other strikers in their squad, I would expect either Mohammad Rafi or Baljit Sahni to lead the attack. Apart from that, expect Luis Garcia and Borja to start in the middle of pitch just the way they did in Kolkata.

On the flip side, I don’t think we’ll see Sanju Pradhan again as he looked slightly off his game in the first leg. Habas the Henchman may choose to replace him with Cavin Lobo who showed some special enthusiasm when he came on in the last game.

In the end, the Kolkata team’s makeup depends entirely upon the situation with their defenders. If they come back then that’ll free up Ofentse Nato and Lester Fernandez. If this happens then Nato would automatically slot into midfield in the place of Rakesh Masih.

FC Goa’s Rockets and Atletico De Kolkata’s Handbrake

Artificial Turf vs. Natural Grass

Artificial Turf vs. Natural Grass

FC Goa will want to grab the initiative early in this game. They know they have the advantage of playing at home and they’ll want to leverage it as much as possible.

They didn’t have this when playing in Kolkata. However, a bigger problem for the ball playing team of FC Goa was the artificial turf that Kolkata chooses to call a football pitch.

They have a nice, warm, humid climate in Kolkata, you know. The kind of climate that is perfect for growing grass. I wish they would take their position as the home of Indian football a little more seriously and promote the damn game.

I do get a little worked up that a region so full of football fans doesn’t know good football or good pitch. More importantly, artificial turf isn’t good for players’ fitness either. It magnifies the jolts on joints such as knees.

You know how they say that you should jog on mud or grass (Kaccha stuff) as opposed to concrete tracks for the benefit of your joints? Well, artificial turf and natural grass is a bit like that. The former look pretty but the latter function better.

However, if you were to create a hybrid of synthetic fiber and natural grass then it takes on the qualities of both artificial turf and natural grass. Many leading football stadiums in the world use such hybrids. Perhaps, Kolkata should consider this as well and not get caught in financials?

Coming back to the point, FC Goa will have the natural surface to play on again and I expect them to dominate because of it.

Atletico De Kolkata will want to prevent that, obviously, and they are masters at doing that. They have this low key and subtle way of taking the bite out of the game. They’ll rotate fouls and freekicks while slowing the game when they have possession.

They’re very good at pulling the handbrakes on another team’s momentum. Keep an eye out for this one and you’ll see it for yourself. This one will be another one of those attack vs. defence affairs.


Marvellous Innovation From Chennaiyin Fails to Pay Dividends

Bernard Mendy, Chennaiyin

Wow! What a match that was! I am still catching my breath and trying to calm down my palpitations. This was a game that reminded me of the 2012 UEFA Champions League when Arsenal almost pulled off a wonderful comeback against Bayern Munich.

I remember that Arsenal had lost 3 – 1 at home against Munich. They went back to Munich and were one goal short of eliminating Bayern Munich.

If Chennaiyin had managed to pull off this wonderful comeback I would’ve cited Liverpool’s great comeback in UEFA Champions League final of 2005 when they came back into the game from being 3 goals down.

Strange Strategies Make Sense in Practice

Bernard Mendy, Chennaiyin

Bernard Mendy, Chennaiyin

This was sheer entertainment and it began even before the first ball was kicked with the way that the teams were set up.

For example, the way that Chennaiyin set up was very interesting. They chose to play 8 defensive minded players again.

I would’ve thought that they would’ve chosen to play Bruno Pelissari and Elano both along with Jean-Eudes Maurice and Jeje Lalpekhlua.

If anything, they went even more defensive than their last game. They took out, yes took out, Elano and Balwant Singh. For them, they brought in Gouramangi Singh and Marco Materazzi. I found that extremely confounding up until I saw them on the pitch.

They had Bernard Mendy in the right forward position and Materazzi in the left central midfield position. Harmanjot Khabra, who started the last game in right back, was playing right central midfield.

This showed me that Chennaiyin were trying to use their size advantage. As a result I expected to see lots of crosses and freekicks being thrown in. I was proven right within a few minutes of the first half when Chennaiyin kept lobbing ball to Mendy and Materazzi.

Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, only brought in Sandesh Jhingan for Nirmal Chettri. I don’t think Kerala Blasters had any idea what Chennaiyin would throw at them.

Chennaiyin Started Like Hyperactive Demons on the Pitch

Marco Materazzi, Chennaiyin FC

Marco Materazzi, Chennaiyin FC

Of the two teams, Chennaiyin started much more brightly. In fact, they were so eager that the kick-off had to be done again due to infringement into the centre circle by one of the Chennaiyin players.

Chennaiyin attacked throughout and created the first great chance in the 12th minute. A cross came in from Chennaiyin’s left flank.

It was flicked on by Materazzi and a Chennaiyin player on the far post (I think it was Maurice) hit a venomous shot which the keeper got a hand to. The ball bobbled on the line before it was cleared.

The game was extremely intense. Chennaiyin players were trying to rile up all the Kerala Blasters’ players. Materazzi, I believe, raised his hand to Victor Herrero Forcada’s (Pulga) neck and followed it by condescendingly slapping Colin Falvey’s face.

In the 19th minute, Materazzi set up Jeje who tried the lower right corner but scuffed his shot. It still required the Kerala Blasters keeper, Sandip Nandy to stretch like a rubber band to save it.

A Sending Off Decides Kerala Blasters’ Strategy for the Rest of the Match

Jamie McAllister, Kerala Blasters FC

Jamie McAllister, Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters managed to create a chance of their own in the 25th minute via Iain Hume. Hume and Michael Chopra combined and the former used a little bit of his skill to get free in the box.

Unfortunately for him, Shilton Paul was off his line to block the shot. Shilton Paul, by the way, was brought on in place of Gennaro Bracigliano.

The situation got worse for Kerala Blasters a little later when Jamie McAllister was given his second yellow card for a rugby tackle.

His first yellow had come in 6 minutes for, get this, time wasting. That sending off made the match even more interesting.

Chennaiyin Complete Their First Labour

Mikael Silvestre, Chennaiyin FC

Mikael Silvestre, Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin had a very good call for penalty when Gurwinder Singh pushed Maurice. Instead, the referee gave Kerala Blasters a freekick for the following incident involving high boot.

In the 42nd minute, Chennaiyin completed their first labour. They won a freekick on the left flank.

Surprisingly, Materazzi took the freekick and delivered an Elanoesque ball into the 6 yard box. Mikael Silvestre ran across his defender and headed the first goal. Chennaiyin FC 1 – 0 Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters Shoot Themselves in the Foot Then Chennaiyin Do the Same

Sandesh Jhingan, Kerala Blasters FC

Sandesh Jhingan, Kerala Blasters FC

Whatever Kerala Blasters discussed during the half time break, it came to naught because they gave away a penalty within 3 minutes of the second half.

Jhingan used Maurice for climbing practice and brought him down in the process.

The referee blew the whistle and Materazzi stepped up. He stroked the penalty home but the referee decided that it had to be retaken because of Maurice’s encroachment into the box.

Materazzi’s second effort flew wide by inches. The score remained the same.

The Calm before the Storm!

Sandip Nandy, Kerala Blasters FC

Sandip Nandy, Kerala Blasters FC

In the 57th minute, Chennaiyin brought on Elano when Nesta had to hobble off due to a faulty hamstring.

Moreover, after the 60th minute, there was a bit of a lull in the game as Kerala Blasters started wasting time by feigning injury. The game became broken and Chennaiyin couldn’t create any momentum.

I think fatigue also came into play because the players looked tired too. In the 75th minute, Kerala Blasters pressed the big red button with 12 letters on it – S.E.L.F. D.E.S.T.R.U.C.T.

A hopeful ball was put into the Kerala Blaster box which Jhingan decided to chest to his keeper. The keeper, probably because of nerves, decided to come for the ball which Jhingan had chested. He was caught in no man’s land and the ball trickled over the line. Chennaiyin FC 2 – 0 Kerala Blasters FC

It’s important to add that the mistake, in my mind, was from Nandy as opposed to Jhingan. That ball was in no way the keeper’s. Besides, Nandy was nursing a hamstring injury and limping all over the place. What was he doing running out of his box?

Chennaiyin Make Everything Even!

Jeje Lalpekhlua, Chennaiyin FC

Jeje Lalpekhlua, Chennaiyin FC

Now, Chennaiyin only needed one more goal and I wanted them to get it because I wanted 30 minutes extra of this wonderful game.

Pelissari got a chance to level the aggregate score in the 85th minute when he broke through the Kerala Blasters defence into the box. His shot, though, ended up going wide.

It wouldn’t matter because on the stroke of 90 minutes Chennaiyin got their third goal by cheating.

Mendy drove towards the touchline in the 18 yard box and looped a glorious cross towards the far post. Jeje was there to hand the ball into the net. Chennaiyin FC 3 – 0 Kerala Blasters FC

I like the fact that this meant 30 minutes more but I didn’t like the fact that it came from cheating. Now, I’m not criticising Jeje because I’ve never been in the kind of situation he was in. For all I know, he handed the ball into the net reflexively.

I’m just ruing the fact that it took something like this for Chennaiyin to equalise on aggregate. I wish the goal was clean.

Chennaiyin now had their tails up in the air. Elano decided to test Kerala Blaster’s third choice keeper with what must’ve been a 35 yarder and another 30 yarder. Luis Barreto could barely keep the first one out while the second one flew over the crossbar.

Same Number of Goals and Now Same Number of Players

When the extra time started, one thing would’ve been clear to anyone watching the match. The match was now Chennaiyin’s to lose because they had the better players on the pitch. In fact, their players were fitter too. They almost showed it in the 100th minute when Elano took a corner and Materazzi almost scored with his head.

In the 104th minute, the game turned on its head. The referee decided to give Materazzi his second yellow card in less than 5 minutes for what was an innocuous challenge. The first yellow card was fair but the second one was plain daft.

It was the wrong call from the referee just like Jeje’s goal was the wrong call. However, what it did was that it made the game 10 vs. 10. With all the remonstrations, angry words, criticisms, and questions from globally established football stars, this was trial by fire for the ref.

Kerala Blasters Pull a Rabbit Out Of the Hat

Stephen Pearson, Kerala Blasters FC

Stephen Pearson, Kerala Blasters FC

The game was well spread with only 20 players on the pitch. Moreover, the fatigue made everyone slow so there were lots of gaps everywhere.

I said the match was Chennaiyin’s to lose and lose it they did with only 3 minutes to go. They allowed Stephen Pearson to score a goal from the middle of the 18 yard box with his left foot.

Granted, he got a lucky roll of the ball but his finish was good. I didn’t think Chennaiyin would have it in them to come back from this. Chennaiyin FC 3 – 1 Kerala Blasters FC.

For the last few minutes, Kerala Blasters would hold out and instead of either of the teams, the match would be counted legendary. This was special folks, I hope you saw it.

If you didn’t, I hope you read this. Even if you do, I hope you do it again! For now, your breathless friendly neighbourhood football buddy bids you adieu.


ISL Marquee Players & Coaches Lining Up!

Emile Heskey

Its official folks. The Indian Super League is successful because the whole world has started lining up. The most recent names to be connected to the great ISL in the string of other ISL Marquee Players and Coaches include Emile Heskey and Peter “you shall not pass” Schmeichel!

Emile Heskey Could’ve Been One of the ISL Marquee Players

Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey is one of the first few to jump onto the ISL bandwagon, claiming that he was asked by one of the teams in the league to come and play. Just in case you don’t know who Emile Heskey is, he was a stalwart of the English Premier League in a bygone era.

Heskey was the traditional English striker who lacked pace but not physicality. He was also considered by many to be a highly intelligent striker. In his time in England,

Heskey chalked up more than 500 appearances in the EPL with more than 300 coming for Liverpool and Leicester City. Heskey was also an England international off and on and has 62 caps and 7 goals to his name.

While Heskey admitted that he chose to stay in England when he was asked earlier, he seems to be regretting the decision because he says that he might consider coming to India in another 1 or 2 years.

I’ve always liked Heskey because he seemed like a decent enough player free from all the other trappings of football fame but I doubt he’ll be able to contribute much if he comes to India when he is 38. That’s a bit too much if you ask me. Besides, I don’t think he has the kind of pull to be an ISL Marquee player.

Peter Schmeichel as a Head Coach?

Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel

The second name to be connected to the ISL this week is Peter Schmeichel. Schmeichel has claimed that he was approached by one of the ISL teams for the role of manager or head coach.

Schmeichel explained his absence by saying that he had to pull out of the deal because the ISL kept getting postponed. I believe this is Schmeichel’s subtle way of saying, ‘I am ready, please give me that chance again’.

I honestly don’t know if he has managerial experience but if I was to guess I would say no. I do know that since retiring Schmeichel has become a pundit of sorts in the English media.

Schmeichel is a legend goalkeeper whose most appearances came for Manchester United in the 90s. He was known for his lightning reflexes and exceptional decision making. Schmeichel played nearly 300 games for Manchester United and earned the moniker ‘the Great Dane’ through his performances.

He also appeared for the national team of Denmark 129 times. I guess you can equate his reputation to our own cricketing legend Rahul ‘the wall’ Dravid. Schmeichel’s arrival, if it ever happens, would mean the addition of another big name to the ISL, even if this one will be in the managerial role.

I do like the way the ISL is making waves all over the world. That too within its first season! I am kicked to see what happens to football in country. I can’t wait to take a walk through the neighbourhood and see each park filled with little footballers. After all, won’t it be fun to see D Block United go up against Sporting de E Block?