Even though the 2020-21 Indian Super League might not be witnessing packed stands, the drama has been no less, with two action-filled weeks having already passed. We have seen neck-to-neck encounters, one-sided affairs and some exceptional solo performances, which brings us to this weekly feature.
Ahmed Jahouh (Mumbai City FC)
The Moroccan was shown the marching orders in Mumbai City FC’s opening tie against Northeast United FC, forcing him to miss out the next game. But he did play against SC East Bengal. Having featured in just one and a half matches (133 minutes) so far, the midfielder has already shown what he’s capable of, with 149 touches to his name, along with 121 passes (almost 1 pass per minute). Moreover, his collaboration with countryman Hugo Boumous, which started during their FC Goa days, has been a nightmare for other teams, with them seen toying with the SC East Bengal defenders en-route to their 3-0 win. The foreigner was a livewire in the minefield, with 17 tackles, 4 interceptions and 3 clearances and it’s just the beginning of a long season. If Mumbai City FC are dreaming of winning their maiden ISL title, Jahouh will play a key role.
Tiri (ATK-Mohun Bagan)
Antonio Lopez Habas has been a daring manager and he’s keeping up the trend by fielding a three-man defence for ATK-Mohun Bagan. And why not, when you have Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam and Tiri, one of the most experienced defenders in the history of the ISL. The Spaniard has enforced heavy workload for the central defender at the back, but Tiri has never looked tired. The foreigner has been a stalwart for the ‘Mariners’ so far this season, with him playing his hearts out during their game against Odisha FC. With 29 clearances so far, there’s no doubt ATK-Mohun Bagan has kept a clean sheet in each of the three games they have played so far. With a 76% passing rate, the footballer has completed 100 passes, while committing 8 blocks, 4 tackles and 3 interceptions. What more could you have asked for?
Edu Bedia (FC Goa)
The lone player from the core group that stormed FC Goa to a top-placed finish in the league table last season, Edu Bedia is still delivering his goods for the ‘Gaurs.’ In three matches, the Spanish playmaker is the player with most passes (239) and touches (284), with him dictating terms anytime and every time the ball is in the midfield. Unfortunately, they are without a win, mainly due to the lack of support he's received from the players up-front. It’s remarkable how he makes the game look so easy, with his swift runs and precise passing, but is yet to unleash his best. With him the prime game-maker this season, unlike the last time, where Hugo Boumous and Ahmed Jahouh hogged most of the limelight, we are expecting it to be his best season so far. Bedia was lethal once again during the game against Northeast United and could have easily swept away the game for his side, but it was not FC Goa’s day overall.
Hugo Boumous (Mumbai City FC)
We cannot exclude him from the list, can we? The Frenchman made the headlines regarding his rumoured transfer to Mumbai City FC during the transfer window, which actually happened after all and now, the playmaker is making his worth felt. What better way to make your presence felt than providing two assists and also inviting a penalty in a 3-0 win over SC East Bengal? The magician blanked the ‘red and gold’ brigade with his trickery, with him literally preparing the meal for Adam le Fondre, out to see the striker enforce a light push to roll the ball into the net. Boumous was brought down by the rivals’ goalkeeper later on in the game, which eventually led to a penalty and in turn the third goal, while he set-up the third goal for Hernan Santana in the 58th minute. If you have any doubt regarding his capability, do keep an eye on their upcoming game against Odisha FC this Sunday evening.
Erik Paartalu (Bengaluru FC)
The Australian needs no introduction, with him already a fan-favorite and one of the mainstays in the Bengaluru FC unit for the past few seasons. Already winning a couple of trophies for the ‘Blues’ since his ISL debut back in 2017, he was destined to make the headlines once again. After a steady start to the season, in the opening couple of matches, which included an assist against Mumbai City FC, the Australian produced a stellar performance against Chennaiyin FC on Friday night. It was unfortunate that Bengaluru FC won by a single goal, doing injustice to the workload put in by Paartalu to keep the supply line flowing to both the wings. Supported with equal competence by Dimas Delgado, it was a treat to watch the ‘Blues’ get back to normal after a bumpy start to the season. Expect a lot more from him in the upcoming matches.