ISL talking points: Sunil Chhetri is back; Kiyan Nassiri weaves his magic

From Kiyan Nassiri’s magic in the Kolkata derby to Sunil Chhetri’s resurgence as a forward, the Indian Super League has had plenty of things to talk about. Here are the top 10 things that happened in the league.

Published : Feb 01, 2022 17:01 IST

Familiar sight: Sunil Chhetri returned to the scoresheet with a goal against FC Goa, becoming the joint goal scorer in the history of ISL, alongside Ferran Corominas with 48 goals.
Familiar sight: Sunil Chhetri returned to the scoresheet with a goal against FC Goa, becoming the joint goal scorer in the history of ISL, alongside Ferran Corominas with 48 goals.

Familiar sight: Sunil Chhetri returned to the scoresheet with a goal against FC Goa, becoming the joint goal scorer in the history of ISL, alongside Ferran Corominas with 48 goals.

Daniel Chima scores on Jamshedpur FC debut

SC East Bengal had parted ways with Nigerian forward Daniel Chima Chukwu a few matches after head-coach Manolo Dias left. When he started against his former side in Jamshedpur FC’s colours, he scored on his maiden start, underlining whose loss it was to let him go.

The goal was a relief for both the player and the Indian Super League (ISL) side as Owen Coyle had lost former Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis to Chennaiyin FC and was looking for a player to fill in for him.

Chima had failed to click under Dias and the goal would be a self-reminder on his importance as a forward.

Sunil Chhetri becomes joint highest goal scorer in the league’s history

Sunil Chhetri returned to the scoresheet with a goal against FC Goa, becoming the joint-highest goal scorer in the history of ISL, alongside Ferran Corominas with 48 goals.

The Indian forward made it to the starting XI initially, but dropped down the pecking order after failing to score.

When he returned to the side, the Indian national team captain was back commanding the team — scoring and assisting at will. After scoring against Goa, he gave two assists against Chennaiyin FC, leaving four defenders on the floor and setting up Udanta Singh for one of the goals.

Samurai: Kiyan Nassiri Giri (right) of ATK Mohun Bagan celebrates after scoring a goal against SC East Bengal at the Fatorda stadium in Goa, India. He scored a hat-trick to helped his side defeat SC East Bengal 3-1.

Nassiri’s magic decimates East Bengal in Kolkata derby

ATK Mohun Bagan completed a league double over SC East Bengal with a convincing 3-1 win . But this time, it was one player who made headlines with a performance of sheer brilliance, scoring a hat-trick.

Kiyan Nassiri, son of former East Bengal legend Jamshid Nassiri, became the nemesis of his father’s former club, coming on as a substitute in the second half and scoring three goals to put the contest to bed.

The win did not just reward three points to the Mariners, but it propelled the side into the top-four temporarily and gave its head coach Juan Ferrando an effective alternative to forward Roy Krishna.

Kerala Blasters’ unbeaten run comes to an end

Bengaluru FC’s fifth win this season came at the cost of a side that was unbeaten since its first defeat on November 19 last year — Kerala Blasters.

READ: Nishu Kumar - Two knee injuries, bouts of self-doubt and a raging comeback

The Blasters were on top of the league table midway through the 2021-22 season, but a COVID-19 outbreak in its camp saw its coach and some of its players out of action.

Two matches were also postponed as a consequence of the virus and when the side returned to action, Bengaluru FC left no stone unturned to exploit the situation to its advantage, winning the match and storming into the top four.

Mumbai City FC’s quest for a win extended by NorthEast United FC

The defending ISL Champion found itself in hot water with no wins in six matches with the last one coming in mid-December last year.

In a match where its star striker Igor Angulo was missing, Ahmed Jahouh rose to the occasion, scoring from the spot against NorthEast United.

However, the side, placed second from bottom in the table, denied three points to MCFC with Mohamed Irshad scoring a late equaliser, keeping Mumbai City out of top four even as pressure mounted on head coach Des Buckingham to give positive results.

FC Goa lodges official complaint about refereeing

FC Goa lodged an official complaint to AIFF about the poor levels of refereeing in the ISL this season.

The objections were made with respect to certain refereeing decisions in Goa’s clashes with NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters, such as ruling out an early goal and a booking for its striker Jorge Ortiz when it involved clear contact.

Goa has struggled to win since its head-coach Juan Ferrando left and sits third from bottom in the league this season.

Subrata Paul returns ‘home’

Former Indian national team captain and goalkeeper Subrata Paul joined ATK Mohun Bagan from Hyderabad FC until the end of the season, ahead of the Kolkata derby.

In a window that has seen a few players return to their former clubs, this was another transfer on that list. The 35-year-old had begun his senior domestic career with Mohun Bagan in 2004. 17 years later, he returns to the club, now called ATK Mohun Bagan, completing a full-circle in Indian domestic football.

Best in business: Bartholomew Owogbalor Ogbeche of Hyderabad FC poses with the match ball after he scoring a hat-trick of goals against SC East Bengal at the Tilak Maidan Stadium, Goa.

Ogbeche makes Golden Boot a one-horse race

Bartholomew Ogbeche continued to ravage ISL defenders, scoring another hat-trick this season, with the latest coming against SC East Bengal. With 12 goals, he cemented his position in front for the race of the Golden Boot. With his closest competitor, Igor Angulo (eight goals), missing in action, he is truly ahead in the race.

He has now been the highest goalscorer for three different ISL sides — NorthEast United, Kerala Blasters and now, Hyderabad FC.

Bengaluru FC enjoys sudden resurgence

Marco Pezzaiuoil’s side had earned four points in its first six matches in the ISL this season and was languishing in the bottom half of the table with little hope of making it to the top-four.

When Naorem Roshan Singh scored with a left-foot stunner against Kerala Blasters, his side knew its fortunes were changing. After 14 games, the 2018-19 ISL champion is back in the top four and has improved its chances.

Odisha dwindles after initial hope under Kino

When Kiko Ramirez left Odisha FC after its loss to Kerala Blasters, Kino Garcia gave fresh hope in his first game in charge, against NorthEast United.

However, the side has failed to secure a win since, with a draw and a tight 2-3 loss to Hyderabad FC.

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