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Doungel's day out, Kolkata's continuing slide

NorthEast United's Seminlen Doungel's hat trick against Chennaiyin FC was the first in the ISL since 2015.
NorthEast United's Seminlen Doungel's hat trick against Chennaiyin FC was the first in the ISL since 2015.

Last week, the Indian Super League (ISL) saw the first hat trick of the season by an Indian player and the debutant teams picked up all nine points on offer in their three games, even as the defending champions appeared to come unstuck.

Doungel delivers

Seminlen Doungel had already delivered a winner in the new year for NorthEast United against high-flying FC Goa, but it was his three-goal trick that completely undid former champions Chennaiyin FC -- making his team the eighth and latest franchise to have an ISL hat trick against their name.

Manipur's Doungel has extensive experience of playing across the country in domestic football and has even put the Indian jersey on once against Palestine in 2014, just before Stephen Constantine took charge. This was his breakthrough performance though, as he became the third Indian to score three in an ISL game -- and the first since Sunil Chhetri and Thongkhosiem Haokip did so in 2015.

None of Doungel's goals was spectacular -- meeting a scuffed save by Karanjit Singh for his first, meeting a cross-field pass with a well-timed run before beating the Chennaiyn goalkeeper for the second and placing the ball into the corner from the edge of the box for the third -- but the 3-1 win that resulted has reignited belief in a NorthEast team that began the season poorly but have looked better since the arrival of Avram Grant and Eelco Schattorie in management.

Jamshedpur rediscover their mojo

It was a good week if you were Steve Coppell -- Jamshedpur scored as many goals over the week as they had done in their nine matches over the first two months of the competition. What's more, each of them came from different players and gave them six points from their two games. There was no significant change in personnel -- it just appeared the team was more driven over the last week.

Jamshedpur's 2-1 midweek win featured the quickest ISL goal ever, scored by Jerry Mawihmingthanga inside 22 seconds. Over the weekend, they were caught out by two strikes from Kalu Uche of the Delhi Dynamos, before captain and defender Tiri started a gritty fightback at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, ending in a 3-2 win. Delhi coach Miguel Angel Portugal looked on in horror -- his team had taken their eye off the target, and only just, but that was enough for them to get punished. That two of Jamshedpur's three goals on the night came from defenders spoke volumes about the positive manner in which Coppell's team approached the week. More of the same could still see them get into top-four contention.

ATK's Jordi Figueras Montel reacts during his team's 3-0 loss to Pune City on January 20, 2018.
ATK's Jordi Figueras Montel reacts during his team's 3-0 loss to Pune City on January 20, 2018.

Kolkata come undone in Pune

Only one of FC Pune City and ATK have ever missed out on the playoffs each season, while the other team are regular entrants into the last four in the first three seasons. Looking at their game on Saturday in Balewadi, you would have thought ATK were the team that have always failed to make the top four.

It's been an up-and-down season for Teddy Sheringham's team and they have failed to boss the midfield all season, with Eugeneson Lyngdoh's appearances for his new club restricted to just three due to injury. Against Pune, ATK conceded three without replying -- the first to a free header from a corner, with Adil Khan taking his tally of goals for the season to four, before Debjit Majumder conceded two further goals to shots from long range. This inability to close out gaps in their defence will only compound problems for a team that have now been overtaken by Jamshedpur in the 'goals for' column. Only NorthEast United have scored as few as ATK's seven goals.

Kerala's lack of energy costing them

The other finalists from the 2016 season, Kerala Blasters, also had a forgettable week, losing 2-1 to both Jamshedpur and FC Goa.

Against Goa, they were playing at home and made a lot of positive moves in the first hour of the match. At about this point, captain Sandesh Jhingan appeared to have twisted his ankle, but chose to stay on the pitch. Did that decision prove costly? The winner came from a glancing header by Edu Bedia off a corner, suggesting the Kerala defence were leaden-footed. This, combined with a lack of teeth in attack, never allowed them to go for three points despite seeing more of the ball over the weekend.


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