ISL mid-season review: Contrasting journeys for Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC

The 2017-18 finalists lie in two opposite ends of the points table; while Bengaluru FC, with eight wins, is at the top, Chennaiyin FC, with a solitary win, lies at the bottom.

Rampant: Bengaluru FC has been unstoppable this season. It is only team that is undefeated so far.   -  AP

With the Indian Super League (ISL) season set to resume on January 25 after the mid-season break, we take a look at how the 10 sides have fared thus far.

ATK

Despite scoring just 10 goals, the lowest in the league, ATK sits sixth on the points table with a strong possibility of reaching the playoffs. After failing to keep a single clean-sheet in the first six matches of the season, ATK strung together four clean-sheets in the next six encounters before the winter break. It helped the team collect nine points.

Coach Steve Coppell will be hoping his forwards chip in with the crucial goals to back up the team’s robust defensive displays. Contributions from striker Kalu Uche and attacking midfielder Manuel Lanzarote will be key to ATK’s charge towards the top four.

Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC appeared to be a team on a mission after the disappointment of its ISL final loss in the 2017-18 season. New coach Carles Cuadrat’s philosophy on the pitch encouraged a pragmatic approach. It has conceded a league-low of just eight goals in 11 matches.

The Blues remain the only undefeated team in the division and are on course for a second successive table-topping finish at the end of the league stages. The team has shared the goal-scoring duties across the pitch after key striker Miku was injured. In the absence of Miku, skipper Sunil Chhetri has led the line effectively, while new signing Chencho Gyeltshen chipped in with a vital equaliser against NorthEast United FC.

Chennaiyin FC

The champion curse seems to have struck Chennaiyin FC as it endured a miserable first half of the season which effectively ruled it out of the playoff race after just 12 matches. Chennaiyin lies last on the table with just a solitary win and five points on the board. Goals have been hard to come by for strikers Jeje Lalpekhlua and Carlos Salom as John Gregory’s men have struggled to convert their dominance of possession into goals.

The team’s 2017-18 success was built on a miserly defence. But this season, the Chennaiyin backline has been all over the place, conceding 24 goals in just 12 matches.

FC Goa

FC Goa started the season in blazing form, with five wins in seven matches, a run which saw it score 21 goals. Forward Ferran Corominas has picked things up from where he left off in the previous campaign; he has scored 10 goals and has chipped in with five assists.

The Gaurs endured a mid-season struggle when they went winless in three matches (two defeats, one draw) but it bounced back just before the break with a convincing 5-1 win over NorthEast United. Teenage goalkeeper Mohammed Nawaz, who was entrusted with the task of solving Goa’s problems under the bar, struggled initially with mistakes, but has come good in recent times to establish himself as the side’s No. 1 in goal.

Mumbai City FC

No one would have expected Mumbai City to be just three points off Bengaluru in second place after it was thrashed 5-0 by Goa in the early stages of the season. From there on, Mumbai went on an eight-match unbeaten run (six wins, two draws) scoring 17 goals while conceding just four.

Courtesy of its eight-match winning run, Mumbai City FC finds itself in the second position in the points table. Photo: AP

 

The introduction of centre-back Joyner Lourenco in the back four has seen Mumbai’s defence manage four clean-sheets in eight matches. Senegalese forward Modou Sougou has turned out to be a fruitful signing, scoring nine goals in his maiden campaign. He has been ably supported in attack by Arnold Issoko, who has been involved in seven goals (two goals, five assists).

FC Pune City

FC Pune City has now had four managers (Marcos Pacqueta, Miguel Angel Portugal, Pradhyam Reddy, Phil Brown) since the start of the pre-season. Miguel Angel was sacked after he managed just a point after three matches in charge. The on-loan departure of striker Emiliano Alfaro to ATK in the middle of the season also did not help Pune City’s cause.

Reddy ended the mid-season break with two back-to-back wins over Kerala Blasters and Goa, which allows the Stallions a fighting chance of making the playoffs under new manager Brown. The forms of Ashique Kuruniyan, who returns after an impressive Asian Cup campaign with India, and Marcelinho, will be crucial in their next six matches.

Delhi Dynamos

Delhi Dynamos has once again had a disappointing season with its first win coming in only its 12th match of the season, against the struggling Chennaiyin. The side, built around exciting young Indian forwards, has struggled to put the opposition away due to its wayward finishing in front of goal.

Delhi Dynamos' only win this season was against the struggling Chennaiyin FC. Photo: PTI

 

Twenty-one-year-old winger Lallianzuala Chhangte has been its main attacking outlet with four goals and an assist while experienced striker Andrija Kaluderovic has struggled to find the back of the net. Coach Josep Gambou will hope to shore up his side’s defensive displays in order to lead it to a respectable finish when the season resumes.

NorthEast United

NorthEast United, under new coach Eelco Schattorie, has been inching its way towards its maiden playoff place. Sitting currently in fourth place with 20 points, its form took a dip in the last four matches before the break; it managed just three points out of the available 12. New striker Bartholomew Ogbeche has hit the ground running with nine goals in 12 matches, which includes a superb first-half hat-trick in a thrilling 4-3 win over Chennaiyin FC.

Uruguayan midfielder Federico Gallego has been the creator-in-chief with five assists. He has also struck three vital goals.

Kerala Blasters

What started out as a season of promise slowly turned sour after its disastrous 11-match winless run. Coach David James faced the consequences for the dismal form when he was sacked after the 6-1 defeat away to Mumbai City before the break. The team’s poor form in front of its home fans — last win in Kochi came on January 27, 2018 — has seen the Manjapadda (official supporters) boycott its matches.

Nelo Vingada will oversee the coaching duties in a caretaker role and will hope to have a positive effect on the squad. Its strike duo of Nikola Krcmarevic and Matlej Poplatnik will need to step up after the rumoured departure of C. K. Vineeth.

Jamshedpur FC

Jamshedpur has had an intriguing season both on and off the field. Despite being placed fifth on the table with 19 points, the club courted controversy after it emerged that its forward Gourav Mukhi had twice fudged his age and was suspended.

However, new signing Michael Soosairaj has boosted the side with his goal-scoring exploits from the wings. Marquee signing Tim Cahill hasn’t been able to have the desired effect yet but he could make a telling contribution with six matches to play for. Spaniard Cesar Ferrando has brought an attacking approach to the side but seven draws in 12 matches so far have cost a place in the top four.