Spectacular goals, stunning results, a mid-season managerial sacking, and more drama than Shakespeare cooked up in medieval lockdown — the ISL had it all in the week gone by.
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Hyderabad continue to impress
Two games, two wins, four goals scored in each. This has been a good week for Hyderabad FC. They had come into the season with arguably the weakest squad on paper. Last season they had 10 points in 18 matches and kept 0 clean sheets. They now have 15 points in 10 games, are third in the table, and are full value for that position.
Coach Manuel Marquez Roca has transformed them — trusting his young Indian core, playing fast, attacking football down the wings, and shoring up defensively. This week was the loudest assertion yet of the Roca resurgence, as they smashed Chennaiyin 4-1, before repeating the trick against fellow underdogs NorthEast United (4-2).
They play league leaders Mumbai City (Saturday, 7.30 PM) next. That nobody will even be thinking of writing them off for that one is a testament to Roca’s — and his team’s — brilliance.
Bengaluru need a hard reset
It has started already. Carles Cuadrat, part of the BFC structure for five and a half years, is gone. He was hugely successful and a fan favourite, but the management felt they had arrived at an impasse, and this was the only way to go.
Naushad Moosa, former youth coach and assistant, is in charge for now and has promised to be brave and attacking and to introduce youngsters. He must. For all their faults, this is still a squad that can compete at the highest level of Indian football, and if this season was the jolt that the system required, they must accept it for what it is, and get on with the refresh.
The first episode of that process didn’t go to plan, and it’s now four losses in a row, but on Saturday, they showed something they had desperately lacked in the first three — fight. That’s something Moosa can build on.
Kerala Blasters oscillate between despair and hope
When your team is completely ripped apart by the team that’s bottom of the league (and hadn’t even won a match till then) on Thursday, and you then stand toe-to-toe with an in-form team gunning for the playoffs and beat them (despite being down to ten men for half an hour) on Sunday, it can all get a little disorienting.
If Thursday was the nadir of a season that has not lived up to expectations, then Sunday was a proper high, arguably the only way to announce to the world that this team isn’t done just yet. Kibu Vicuna has a lot of things to fix with his Blasters — starting with that defence — but the performance against Jamshedpur was a clear indicator that the players are still swinging for him, and they are swinging hard. When that’s the case, there’s always hope.
Chennaiyin need goals
This column has repeated it all too often this season, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Chennaiyin will remain in mid-table obscurity unless they find someone who’s able to take the ball and place it in the back of the opposition’s net. With the inspirational Rafael Crivellaro out injured for the season, it had appeared to be curtains for the team — as evidenced by their (relatively) lacklustre forward play against Hyderabad. But a much better (albeit goalless) performance against Odisha showed that Csaba Laszlo has a trick or two up his sleeve, and there may be more on the way.
There are rumours that Manuel Lanzarote — the hugely talented Spaniard and scourge of ISL defences — may be coming to Chennaiyin for the rest of the season, as a replacement for Crivellaro. If this move materialises, Laszlo will hope that Lanza’s magic touch sparks a finishing revolution.
East Bengal get their act together
From the division’s whipping boys to one of only three teams that are on a five-game unbeaten run (the others being the top two), it’s been some change. While their previous results came against fellow bottom-feeders Chennaiyin, Kerala Blasters and Odisha, this week showed genuine potential. Yes, it came against a weirdly incoherent Goa (a draw) and an understandably concussed BFC (a win), but they were morale-boosting results that were backed by solid performances.
There is still a way to go before they drag themselves out of the mire and bother the big boys for a spot at the playoff table, but Robbie Fowler and his men are on the right track.
Player of The Week – Bright Enobakhare
Bright Enobakhare. Every time he gets on the ball, there’s panic. He floats around, seeking space, occupying unmarked, unmark-able pockets, wreaking havoc with his on and off the ball movement. He’s almost single-handedly made a team that at best looked functional, an interesting prospect.
P.S. An honourable mention to Liston Colaco, whose first goal against NorthEast United (which gave Hyderabad the lead), was an absolute cracker. Every element of it — the drop of the shoulder to send one defender to have a coffee, the shuffle of the feet to send another to give him company, the whip and the power and the precision of that left-footed finish — was straight out of the top drawer.
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