We have passed the initial stages of the ISL, which offered us high-voltage encounters, incredible solo efforts and outstanding goals. As far as the season is concerned, we are slowly entering into the business end of it, where the teams are going to fight it out for every point on offer.
Esmael Goncalves (Chennaiyin FC)
Having displayed advanced level skills in the wee days of the tournament, Esmael Gonsalves did not bloom as was expected from him when the days rolled around. But, the striker has suddenly woke up from slumber and delivered a match-winning performance against Odisha FC on Wednesday evening - at a time when his team needed the most. While three goals and an assist to his name so far this season justifies that he is built for the kill, he needs to be more consistent to retain the trust of head coach Csaba Laszlo. The former Ligue 1 player has already missed out on four matches due to a thigh muscle strain. Maybe this is the perfect time for Isma’s (as he is popularly known as) resurgence, with nine matches still left to play and Chennaiyin FC back at the sixth spot in the points table and also very much in contention for the playoffs.
Jorge Ortiz Mendoza (FC Goa)
The forward has always provided enough support to the attacking third for FC Goa in the ongoing season, but it’s time he hogs the limelight. And scoring two goals in a winning cause was the best possible way to mark his existence after largely remaining as a unsung hero throughout the first half of the league. Even if he keeps up his current form, we are sure that his tally of four goals will take a giant leap as we approach the business end of the league. Having kept faith in the Spaniard was not a bad call from Juan Ferramdo it seems, with the team looking in good shape after 12 rounds, currently at the third position in the league table with 19 points, and five wins so far. With Igor Angulo absent, he provided teeth to the attacking third in their following game against ATK-Mohun Bagan, helping the ‘Gaurs’ salvage one point from the fixture.
Bartholomew Ogbeche (Mumbai City FC)
You can never take your eyes off him, can you? With loads of strikes to his name, there was no denying Bartholomew Ogbeche was special, even though Adam le Fondre was Sergio Lobera’s primary choice. Having netted twice this season, once against Odisha FC and the other during the 1-1 draw with Jamshedpur FC, the Mumbai City FC head coach gave him a start for the first time in four games, during their crucial tie against ATK-Mohun Bagan. With Mariners’ typical up on display, the ‘Islanders’ hardly got any opportunity to penetrate until the 69th minute, when the Nigerian fired a curler to beat custodian Amrinder Singh and guide his team to a significant win. Incidentally, he was about to be taken off just moments before scoring the winner, with Adam le Fondre all geared up the sidelines. The road to the playoffs might be a cakewalk for Mumbai City FC now, but they need the experience of Ogbeche if they aspire to clinch the silverware.
SC East Bengal’s disastrous start to the season has been a hard pill to swallow for the fans and the management. But, they have arrested the slump recently, having avoided a defeat in the last five matches, with three wins and shared points in the remaining two. The draws could have easily ended tragically if not for their shot-stopper Debjit Majumder with him doing more than his fair-share. 13 saves in his last three matches - against Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC respectively, means that the world ought to take him more seriously. Down to 10 men, with almost an hour to play, the glovemen had his work cut out. Shots after shots were hurled in from the other side, but he stood firm, parrying each one of them to avert danger. With nine matches still left for them to play, SC East Bengal followers will bank on Debjit Majumder to deliver his goods.