ISL wrap: Table-topping Bengaluru's consistency, Delhi's crazy goalfest
The past week of the Indian Super League (ISL) saw Lucian Goian save the day for Mumbai City FC, FC Goa's thrashing of FC Pune City to mark a solid comeback and more.
Goian's day out
Romanian defender and captain Lucian Goian has been the biggest influence for Mumbai City FC, and his role in a must-win game at home against NorthEast United FC was always going to be critical.
Mumbai began the scoring in this home fixture, but then Goian was to blame for letting in two goals. In the first, he was found wandering inside his box and ended up deflecting a shot into his own net, and then he allowed NorthEast centre-back Samba to beat him easily to a ball delivered from a corner. Mumbai equalised early in the second half, and Goian redeemed himself twice in the dying moments of the game.
With Mumbai pushing up, NorthEast were looking to thread balls through, and one would have made it but for Goian's full-stretch interception. In injury time, he was found stretching at the other end, to meet a ball lobbed in deep at the far post. Mumbai snatched an improbable 3-2 win, Goian set off sliding across the grass at the Mumbai Football Arena, as his young son Luca copied the celebration in the VIP section at the other end of the ground.
Goa break their winless spell
Another team that needed to win over the weekend, following a winless streak of five matches since January 21, were FC Goa. They did so in style, thrashing FC Pune City 4-0 for their first clean sheet in 17 matches.
With Edu Bedia suspended, coach Sergio Lobera had Ahmed Jahouh and Pronay Halder shore up the midfield, allowing the incoming Hugo Boumous a free role. Boumous combined with Coro, Manuel Lanzarote and Mandar Rao Desai to blitz Pune into submission with an attacking spell of play to start the second half that produced three goals.
Pune should have seen out the damage but Marcelinho, whose propensity for outrageous tackles found a mention in last week's wrap, went in with two feet at Halder, earning himself a second yellow for the game. He will miss what will be their last league game for the season, away to Delhi Dynamos on Friday, but retrospective action could also affect his participation in the playoffs, which Pune have made for the first time.
Bengaluru just won't let up
Pune's defeat in Sunday's early kick-off meant Bengaluru FC were going to top the group even if they lost their last two matches, to Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters.
Someone obviously forgot to deliver that memo to Albert Roca, as he fielded a full-strength team in this 'home' game for Jamshedpur, for which Bhubaneswar made its ISL debut as a venue. Bengaluru were clinical, with Gurpreet Sandhu leading a strong defensive performance as they ran out 2-0 winners to complete at least one win over each of their nine opponents for the season.
The second goal summed up all that's good about Bengaluru. Dimas Delgado delivered a low cross from the corner into one of the lesser populated areas of the Jamshedpur penalty box, and Sunil Chhetri made a precise run into that part and jumped enough to get the right power and direction in his header to beat Subrata Pal. It was as simple and effective as Roca's team have been this whole season.
Another Delhi goalfest
Something about the Nehru Stadium in Delhi gets teams to go crazy with goals galore in the closing stages of the season, with nothing at stake, since Delhi Dynamos' first entry into the play-offs two years ago.
On Saturday, Delhi and ATK took to the pitch in Delhi with both teams out of the reckoning for the playoffs, and a seven-goal thriller ensued.
Robbie Keane stamped his class over the first hour of the match, scoring two goals -- including a sumptuous free kick that curled over the defensive wall and dipped perfectly into the top left corner. The rest of the match belonged to Kalu Uche's Delhi, as they overturned a 3-1 deficit with some fabulous attacking play to find a late winner in the game. The chief architect of the win was Uche with two goals, but Lallianzuala Chhangte and Seityasen Singh played the ideal foils, running relentlessly down the wings and taking their chances when the ball fell to them. Neither side will finish even in the top six, but the confidence gained in these last matches could come in handy in the play-off stages of the Super Cup.