Indian Super League has thrown quite a few surprises so far this season with many expected stars flopping whereas some of the new imports already making a mark for themselves with scintillating displays. With seven matches played post the 10-day break, we look at the studs and duds from the matches.
Bartholomew Ogbeche – While NorthEast United’s defence would definitely be a huge concern for Eelco Schattorie after they conceded three goals in the backyard of Chennaiyin FC, his biggest relief has been the Nigerian forward. Not playing the quintessential centre-forward role that most ISL sides have, where the striker falls deep to win balls and create chances, the 34-year-old knows how to be at the right place at the right time. And that is exactly how the Highlanders won the seven-goal thriller against Chennaiyin FC. While the Marina Machans’ backline should primarily be blamed for it, one cannot take away Ogbeche’s sublime finishing that eventually turned the tide for visitors.
Sunil Chhetri – The captain took his time get going but once he was in the zone, he looked unstoppable against FC Pune City. Previous season’s playoff-ers are having a tough time under new boss Miguel Portugal, who needs to sort out tactical deficiencies and was unlucky to face the wrath of the Bengaluru FC skipper. Playing on the left flank, from where 36% of ISL attacks have taken place this season so far, Chhetri was devastating on Monday as he scored two goals to take Bengaluru FC to the top of the table after three matches. He was dangerously close to yet another hattrick against Pune but for Vishal Kaith who saved his team further blushes.
Pritam Kotal - Despite the terrible show that Delhi Dynamos have put that lacks both intent and quality, their skipper has definitely been the lone ranger in the side. From the right defensive flank, Kotal seems to have carried Delhi alone at times in the absence of Marcos Tebar. While he came up with the equalizer against ATK in the match at home before the Dynamos went on to concede a late goal to lose the match, against Kerala Blasters, Kotal turned the creator that led to the misfiring Andrija Kaludjerovic to score the equalizer. A real leader in this sense, Kotal has shown the one thing no Delhi player has shown – intensity.
Thoi Singh - Easily the revelation of ISL so far, the Chennaiyin FC youngster has announced his arrival with two goals in his first start of the season in place of the experienced Gregory Nelson. In a high octane match against NorthEast United, the 18-year-old from Manipur displayed intelligence to be at the right place at the right time that eventually gifted him two easy tap-ins. His energy to run up and down the flanks have impressed Gregory, which had put Chennaiyin in a place of a perfect win before NEUFC’s attack turned the tables later in the second half. Thoi looked dangerous against Delhi at times, as well, but Chennaiyin couldn't really take their chances.
Robin Singh – Not quite in form now as he was during his East Bengal days, but Robin Singh still holds a place in ISL for his distinct physical prowess that most Indian forwards don’t possess. The Uttar Pradesh forward boasts of a good over six
Mailson Alves – To the Super Machans’ surprise, their best player from last season is fast becoming their biggest liability this season. After losing their opening two games, the Marina Machans were expected to start their home season well especially after a 10-day break. However, John Gregory’s most trusted general turned out to be his biggest vulnerability against a well passing NorthEast United side. Forget about keeping the backline organized, the centre-back failed to read the ball on many occasions leading Bartholomew Ogbeche to exploit Chennaiyin’s multiple times. The hosts were lucky to concede just three goals by the Nigerian compared to the plethora of chances that he had gotten. Mailson was consequently benched against Delhi with Inigo Calderon taking the centre-half role.
Marcelinho – Ahead of the Maha Derby on October 19, there was only one question by the reporters for Miguel Portugal, if Marcelinho would play or not. Portugal had to start him on the bench against Mumbai City and he justified himself by stating that Pune
Tim Cahill - It is no secret that set-pieces have always played a huge role in Asian football and for a good chunk of time, ISL was ruled by players who were good from aerial deliveries. Hence, when a transitional Jamshedpur managed to rope in Australia’s football legend Tim Cahill, the football fraternity had applauded them for the signing. However, to their misfortune, the midfielder, who has more often played the false no. 9 this season, has been in poor touch so far. With his heading being the known USP, one could accuse other Jamshedpur players of not providing him with the passes, but against ATK, the JFC fans were robbed even off of that excuse as Cahill floundered a clear chance from almost point blank range with his head.
Carlos Salom - It was for the second time that John Gregory had decided to hand Carlos Salom a chance over fan favourite Jeje Lalpekhlua in ISL on Tuesday but the latest import is seemingly suffering from the same under-confidence as Jeje is. While Delhi’s Francisco Dorronsoro was clearly the hero of the match, making as many as seven match-winning saves, fans would still remember the game for that one miss that Salom had while going one on one with the goalie. While Salom would argue that it could happen to the best of strikers, that goal could have fetched Chennaiyin their first win in ISL season five and the Super Machans aren’t having any of it.
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