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ISL wrap: Erik Paartalu's stunning entry, Chennaiyin's misery and more

Star of the week

Erik Paartalu.

Bengaluru FC have missed the big man in central midfield. Against Chennai, on Sunday, he owned it. He shielded the defence, started attacks, and scored the all-important opening goal after a nervy start that had promised to develop into one of those 'why-is-nothing-going-in' games. 

With Dimas Delgado next to him and Raphael Augusto in front of him, there's no better midfield trio in this country.

Flop of the week

Chennaiyin FC.

"I have carried this club on my shoulders for the last two years. It's not easy. I have never worked so hard in my life. It might be time for someone else to take over. Frankly, this is the worst I have felt in my time here." You know everything has gone wrong when your coach starts a post-match press conference after a chastening 3-0 defeat at your biggest rivals with that.

To excuse Chennaiyin's woeful performances last season, you could have argued that John Gregory had earned some patience with his league-winning exploits and his development of the young Indian players in the squad. If you'd stretched that excuse out a bit, you could have used it to defend his continued presence through the AFC Cup group stages.

Now, with zero wins, zero goals scored, and seven goals conceded in four matches, it would have been near impossible. This press conference, where he all but quit, has sealed it. Gregory may have let the team down, the team may have let the manager down, but whichever way it went down, this surely is it.

Oh, and their performance in the 3-0 loss at the Kanteerava to Bengaluru? As hapless a display as we have ever seen.

Performance of the week

Mumbai City 2 - 4 FC Goa. 

Last week this column said Odisha FC were like FC Goa-on-steroids. We were wrong.

FC Goa is FC Goa-on-steroids. 

More of this? Yes, please!

Funky tactical tweak of the week

Restoring order in the Bengaluru XI. Obviously helped by the return of Paartalu (see above).

This saw Harmanjot Khabra pushed out to right back from central midfield, and more importantly, Ashique Kuruniyan shifted forward on the left wing and Sunil Chhetri moved into the middle.

With Paartalu and Delgado at the base, and Kuruniyan, Raphael Augusto, and Udanta Singh behind Chhetri, Bengaluru reminded everyone why they were the champions they were. It worked offensively, it worked defensively, so is that it with the Kuruniyan-as-Roberto-Carlos experiment?

Hopefully.

Rant of the week

Refe The state of that pitch in the Gachibowli stadium, Hyderabad. It absolutely doesn't excuse NorthEast United and the home side pretending to go through the motions in their match there on Wednesday; but it was terrible to see mud and earth being flung about every time a slide was put in, or the ball was kicked too hard.

Oh, and who says Pune has lost their ISL team? (Due to their home stadium not being ready, Odisha will play their first three home games at Pune's Balewadi stadium. Sigh.)

Tweet of the week

Your weekly dose of the best presence on Indian sports social media.

A Sahal Abdul Samad penalty claim led to Eelco Schattorie remonstrating very publicly with the referees, on the field. For which he got a yellow card. He would then tweet in response to an ISL tweet asking, "what did he say to the referee to get a booking" with -- "I will give 100.000 rupees if that was not a penalty. AND I SAID IT IN A POLITE WAY!!!! I repeat... VERY POLITE"

This was deleted, but he would respond to someone asking him about it --

(Oh, and whoever asked him to delete the original tweet in the first place, STOP! We deserve an unfettered Schattorie)

The incident that sparked it all? This -

You can understand his outrage.

WTH moment of the week

Subrata Paul telling Roy Krishna where to hit the ball on his second penalty (which had to be retaken twice), and then seeing Krishna leather it past him into the corner he'd been pointing at was pretty fun, but the prize goes to Sergio Cindoncha's and Jessel Carneiro's free-kick routine vs Odisha.

We are going to break that down for you step-by-step --

a) The two argue vociferously over who would take a free kick for Kerala, some forty-five yards out.

b) Carneiro walks away fuming, gesticulating wildly to show his displeasure.

c) Cidoncha rolls his eyes, and head, in that universal way of communicating, "Oh my God, can you believe this guy!"

d) As Carneiro moves away, and everyone's wondering what on Earth is up, Cidoncha snaps into focus-on-ball mode and whips in a decent ball into the Odisha box.

e) Odisha, who haven't been distracted through these past fifteen odd seconds of stellar acting, clear easily.

f) Cidoncha and Carneiro exchange wide grins and go on about their business.

Lovely stuff.

Pleasant surprise of the week

Pradyum Reddy -- him again -- tearing into Narayan Das for the latter's performance against Kerala.

He wasn't mean, histrionic, or shrill. Reddy merely called it as he saw it. Das was terrible on and off the ball, should have given away a penalty and misplaced quite a few passes - and as his job requires him to do, Reddy explained what he was doing wrong, and without sugarcoating it, called Das out on the performance.

It may not seem like much, but for regular listeners, this was the sort of balanced 'expert's take' that we had been craving.

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