ISL wrap: Costa outsmarts Cuadrat, sizzling Goa and more
Star of the week
Mumbai City FC
Before Sunday, Bengaluru FC had gone 637 days without being beaten in a league game at home. A scrappy, 94th minute, Rowllin Borges goal made sure that remarkable run did not extend to 638.
Much maligned for his 'functional' style of play, Jorge Costa out-tactic-ed (as Sam Allardyce would have put it) Carles Cuadrat on the day. As poor as Bengaluru were, Mumbai were smart, used the ball well, and deserved the three points that puts an end to a run of six games without a win.
With the top of the league so tightly bunched up (five points separate leaders FC Goa and 6th placed Mumbai), count them out at your own peril.
Flop of the week
This may sound like a broken record, but Hyderabad FC.
After their madcap 2-3 loss to Odisha FC, Hyderabad have four points in eight games. They have scored just seven goals and have conceded seventeen. The lowest points tally any team has registered at the end of an ISL season is nine (Chennaiyin FC's horrendous title defence from last season). Can Phil Brown's men salvage some pride and not break that record?
Performance of the week
FC Goa 2 - 1 ATK
Ill-tempered, end-to-end, dramatic, the Goa-ATK game had a little bit for everyone. From Sergio Lobera setting up his men to brilliantly exploit the weaknesses in Antonio Habas' 3-5-2 formation, to ATK showing character to dig in and stay in the game, it was a fantastic watch.
Oh, and the goals. Mourtada Fall muscling in the first, Jobby Justin tucking in a classic poacher's finish to equalize and Coro doing Coro things (ghosting in at the near post superbly) to win the game. Magnifique.
After an indifferent start to the season, Goa now top the league.
Funky tactical tweak of the week
Once again, this one is from off the field. And it is a good one. A decision that puts the "league" right back in the Indian Super League.
The team that finishes on top of the ISL league stage gets direct entry into the group stages of Asia's premiere continental competition, the Asian Champions League. The I-league champion, meanwhile, will head directly into the group stages of the AFC Cup, while another slot in the second-tier competition would be given to the ISL league stage runner-up.
Rant of the week
The AIFF has decided to scrap the Super Cup, the knockout competition that pits I-league and ISL sides against each other at the end of the season.
While it is not immediately clear how this decision could possibly benefit Indian football, the negative ramifications are obvious. For a nation struggling to get its footballers enough playing time, how does cutting the number of available, competitive, matches make any sense?
Tweet of the week
I've grown up in a colony where people from all religions resided in harmony & we had the time of our lives. Hung out, played sport, studied together & celebrated every festival like it was our own. To see what's happening currently is plain heart breaking. Let's spread the love.- Darren Caldeira (@darrencaldeira) December 10, 2019
This should be normal, but in an environment where challenging the establishment can have far-reaching consequences on careers, it is not. You could disagree with their opinions, but you cannot deny it is brave.
This column salutes that bravery. Speak up, and keep on speaking up, Messrs. Caldeira and Vineeth. India needs more athletes (and indeed, celebrities) of your ilk.