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.

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.

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.

FC Goa Inform Team Take on Plucky Upstarts Northeast United FC

FC Goa vs. Northeast United FC

FC Goa vs. Northeast United FC

4 games ago, you would’ve have billed FC Goa as a team struggling to survive in the highly competitive Indian Super League.

Once they beat Delhi Dynamos FC comprehensively in an away game, you would’ve have billed them as plucky upstarts of the league.

You would’ve been sceptical about their future after that game. This sounds eerily similar to their opponents today Northeast United FC.

Northeast United were languishing bottom of the table when they came up against the league leaders in their last game. Since they scored 3 goals in 29 minutes against the southerners, they can now be labelled as the new plucky upstarts.

There was a difference, however. Northeast United FC beat Chennaiyin FC at home while FC Goa’s trial by fire happened away from home. This little difference can turn out to be crucial in the upcoming match. Do Northeast United FC know how to churn out a result when the fans are not with them? Can they balance attack with defence as is required in an away game?

FC Goa’s Zico Should Be Able to Counter the Threat of Massamba

Zico, FC Goa Head Coach

Zico, FC Goa Head Coach

If these questions are baking your noodle imagine this. Northeast United FC won that game against Northeast United FC literally on the back of Massamba Lo Sambou, the towering centre back.

They lofted balls in and Chennaiyin FC couldn’t cope with the power of Massamba. Massamba was the surprise difference in that game and he won’t be a surprise any longer. Zico is a wily old manager who’ll have a plan to neuter Massamba’s set piece threat.

What I’m getting at is that it’s not like Northeast United FC have their attack sorted out entirely. You can’t depend on set pieces to win you games. I’ll never be a proponent of that kind of a game because I think there’s too much chance involved.

Will the lady luck smile on Northeast United FC again when they try to use set pieces? I don’t have to tell you that I prefer the older Northeast United FC – the team that used short passes and played the ball on the floor. Sure, they should mix it up with Massamba but if they rely solely on set pieces, they may come undone in this match.

Massamba’s Defending Could Be a Liability

Massamba Lo Sambou, Northeast United FC

Massamba Lo Sambou, Northeast United FC

In addition, I’m sure you missed Massamba making mistakes in his primary job i.e. defending. Andre Santos, Robert Pires (if he plays), and Romeo Fernandes will make a mickey out of Massamba if he defends like he did in the last game.

Even though FC Goa came off as plucky upstarts initially I saw that their game had always been good and that they’d only started reaping dividends for it then. However, after stringing together a 5 match unbeaten streak, FC Goa are no longer plucky upstarts.

They have a 5 match unbeaten streak and have shown attacking consistency. Their fans will now expect them to dispose of the new plucky upstarts in Northeast United FC. I know I do.

Zico Lauds Consistency & Home Support

In fact, in his pre-game press conference, Zico said that his team is doing better because of that consistency. With the same players turning out day in day out, it’s no surprise that they’re playing so well together. His exact comments:

When we have the chance to play the same team, same group and same formation over a period of time, we can see good results. The guys are playing together more now. They’re more compact and the tiredness is much less. That’s why the results have been good. This is the fruit of our initial preparation. And as I’ve said multiple times already, we have 27 players, each one ready to contribute, and when the chance presents itself, they show what they’re worth.

FC Goa need to win this game, make no doubt about it. They’ll be the team forcing the issue while Northeast United FC will sit back and try to hit them on the counter. This strategy hasn’t worked for them throughout this season. Will it today?

FC Goa need to win this game purely because this is their last chance to leverage their home support in the league, unless they get through the knockout stages. After this game, their run in looks daunting as they play Atletico De Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC away. Zico touched on their home support too saying:

I hope that this won’t be the last game we play here for this season. I hope we have at least one more chance. It has been amazing. We love this ground and the crowds who come in to support us. They add the extra man to our squad. We are looking to honour the fans by giving it our all. We just want to give this gift to them. I’ve told my players what this crowd means and that we should do this for them.

Be Calm & Ricki Herbert

Ricki Herbert’s comment were exactly opposite of what the defiant Zico said. Herbert is trying to keep his players’ feet on the ground by downplaying their last good result.

We’re just looking at the Goa game as another fixture. It’s a game we want to win.

However, this doesn’t mean that he didn’t praise his players for their performance in the last game. He praised them profusely in fact.

I thought we were terrific in the last game. We played probably the best team in the league and it was a very convincing result for us. We’re very pleased to be here in Goa and we look forward to another three points.

His team will be up against it in this game but if he can pull out another surprise out of his managerial hat, they may be able to get some points from this game as well.

FC Goa’s Bid for 2nd Spot; Northeast United FC’s Bid For 3rd

If FC Goa can win, they’ll do their chances of qualifying for the next phase of the tournament a world of good. They can go above Atletico De Kolkata who drew their last game to the 2nd spot in the Indian Super League.

If Northeast United FC can continue their resurgence then they can actually topple their opponents for today to take the 3rd spot in the league. Northeast United FC improved their GD greatly with their last win. They’ll be looking to continue doing that in this game as it may be crucial come the last round of games.

Their last 2 games are much easier than FC Goa’s too. They take on Kerala Blasters FC away and Mumbai City FC at home. Their final game has the potential for 3 points too and they may even get something against Kerala Blasters FC. So, 3 points are not absolutely vital for them.

For this reason, you can expect them to be careful in this game while FC Goa will try to force the issue as I mentioned above. I wonder if Zico will play Robert Pires. I hope he does because they may need his vision to control the midfield battle and nullify the high intensity press of Northeast United FC.

Northeast United FC Blitzkrieg Chennaiyin FC

Ricki Herbert warned Chennaiyin FC

Ricki Herbert warned Chennaiyin FC

Just look at the Indian Super League table and you’ll see that today’s match was the David vs. Goliath match of the fledgling ISL.

Chennaiyin FC the league leaders and the in-form team of the moment take on Northeast United FC, the team at the foot of the table.

Before the match, Head Coach of Northeast United FC, Ricki Herbert, promised that his side will have a go at Chennaiyin FC. He seemed to have followed through on his promise as there were 4 changes to Northeast United’s starting line-up.

In came Boithang Haokip, Guilherme Felipe de Castro, Massamba Lo Sambou, and Durga Boro for Aiborlang Khongjee, Robin Gurung, Do Dong Hyun, and Isaac Chansa. Marco Materazzi decided to rest Bojan Djordjic and Mikael Silvestre and replaced them with Jean Eudes Maurice and Jairo Andres Suarez Carvajal.

Northeast United FC Open Scoring Quickly

Durga Boro, Northeast United FC

Durga Boro, Northeast United FC

Not surprisingly, Northeast United did start in a more attacking manner and put Chennaiyin FC on the back foot who decided to focus on counterattacking.

They were camped in Chennaiyin FC’s box and you could see that they had a do or die attitude about the game. They had nothing to lose and they were playing like it. Their brilliant attacking play yielded results soon enough.

The goal was scored in the 10th minute and was a result of a lucky ricochet of the ball. However, it’s not like Northeast United didn’t deserve it because they did.

The cross came in Djemba-Djemba headed it out but it hit the back of the head of another Northeast United FC. The ball dropped fortuitously to Durga who put it beyond the onrushing keeper into the bottom corner. Chennaiyin FC players looked shell-shocked. Northeast United FC 1 – 0 Chennaiyin FC.

Chennaiyin FC Rattled By the 2nd Goal

Massamba Lo Sambou, Northeast United FC

Massamba Lo Sambou, Northeast United FC

Northeast United FC upped the ante even further after another 10 minutes and scored their 2nd goal of the game.

After camping firmly in the Chennaiyin FC box and throwing balls in left, right, and centre, they finally struck gold with a cross from the left flank.

The ball came in from a freekick and it was a good one. Massamba rose and put the ball in the far corner. A Chennaiyin FC defender tried to clear the ball but could only put it into the roof of the net. Chennaiyin FC players were rattled. Northeast United FC 2 – 0 Chennaiyin FC.

Northeast United FC All but Insure Their 3 Points

Four minutes later, in the 23rd minute, Massamba struck again. The freekick again came in from the left side and found Massamba’s towering head. He powered one devastating header into the far side of the net. Chennaiyin FC heads were dropping. Northeast United FC 3 – 0 Chennaiyin FC.

Chennaiyin FC were slow, sluggish, and aimless till the 35th minute. It’s only about that time that they started realising that more than half the match is left. They did pick up their game a little then. Still, they couldn’t really do anything useful and kept undoing their work by giving the ball away.

Twice, Northeast United FC’s striker got free with only the keeper to beat. The 1st time, the keeper saved well and the 2nd time Bernard Mendy deflected the shot. The rest of the half petered out.

A Toothless Display from Chennaiyin FC in the Second Half

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Joan Capdevila, Northeast United FC

Chennaiyin FC seemed calmer in the second half and even had the ball in the net via Cristian Hindalgo Gonzalez.

Unfortunately, he was in an offside position and the goal didn’t count. If the first half was thrilling and full of action, the second half was a drab affair.

Marco Materazzi tried to change the complexion of the game with substitutions but the people he brought on couldn’t do much. The game was mired in midfield and everything was interrupted which is probably what Northeast United FC wanted in the first place.

Things did look up for Chennaiyin FC when the referee gave Joan Capdevila his second yellow card. The first yellow card came in the first half when he deliberately handled the ball. This one came when he raised his hand to Maurice’s face. Both were unnecessary and not the kind of thing you expect from someone who has as much experience as he does.

The sad bit is that Chennaiyin FC couldn’t really take advantage of their one man advantage. They looked utterly, completely, entirely, hopelessly toothless in the game. While their qualification for the knockout stage isn’t really in question for me, if they want to win the semis and the final then they’ll need to somehow get Elano back.

It’s not the end of the world for Chennaiyin FC from any perspective though. In hindsight, I think Materazzi understands that his team is lacking many key players. This is probably why his comments were so sober and measured in his pregame press conference.

Another Bottom Team Proves Everyone Wrong

From the Northeast United FC angle, I believe this is what you call the “commentator’s curse”? This is the second time I’ve been proven wrong by a team at the bottom of the table after I said that they’re finished. The last was Delhi Dynamos FC.

To be fair, no one could’ve predicted what Northeast United FC would do. They literally pulled the German blitzkrieg on Chennaiyin FC. I say literally because the German blitzkrieg was all about aerial firepower and that’s what Northeast United FC’s win was based on.