AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
At the end of the 18th game, statistics clearly indicate that all teams are looking at the Indian Super League (ISL) 6 differently because the team that finishes on top is going to be crowned the winner and the winner of the knock out will be taking home the big tip.
With the AFC making it clear that the winner of the league will represent India in the Asian Champions League, the dice has fallen on football and the glitz of the past is slowly waning away. The adrenalin is still there but its flow has been restrained with caution.
Forty five goals have been scored in 18 games giving the tournament an average of two and a half goals per game and the only team to meet this average is FC Goa. Four games have ended goalless; three games have been won by a solitary goal; six games have ended drawn; and four teams are unbeaten.
FC Goa is on top, closely followed by NorthEast United FC and Jamshedpur FC. Goals and a point separate the first four teams on the top of the table and though Bengaluru FC is eight on the table, with just three points, they are still the favourites.
The road map for football in India has many years to take shape and yet it seems to be giving shape to a game that appeared to be distracted by a tournament that saw money and glamour as the principal ingredients of attracting the masses. Six years down the line, football is still showing why it is still beautiful.
From the eighteen games held so far, though FC Goa is on top, the stay does not appear for too long as the team appears to have replaced the cork in the bottle with a cap. The football in the first four games has been comical, laced with a lot of luck and the game being lackadaisical.
FC Goa’s biggest worry is in the defense and in particular in the way Mandar Rao Desai has been playing. He and the left flank he is manning are the team’s weakest link and will continue to be so until football sense prevails.
With Mandar playing on the left, Carlos Pena has to cover more space in that area forcing Ahmed Jahou to play more in the centre back thus changing the formation and style of play and it is this change that is offering opponents enough armour to hit back with. FC Goa has conceded five goals in four games and scored ten.
Coro has not corroded after having scored so many goals in his two years in ISL but has definitely either lost his magic or is unable to produce more goal scoring tricks. Seiminlen Doungel and Manvir Singh have scored when Coro has been unable but Sergio Lobera has been looking at his foreign players to do the bulk of the work with the foreign players – Coro, Carlos Pena and Hugo Boumous – sharing seven of the ten goals scored by the team.
FC Goa has been trying out Manvir Singh to assist Coro in front and he still has a long way to go because Manvir has shown limited ability to play with the ball and even worse little ability to convert. He misses easy chances. Luck does not make a striker. FC Goa has better options and Sergio seems handcuffed, blinded or both.
If Sergio has not added any lustre to his football of two years with FC Goa, Bengaluru FC definitely has. Unlike FC Goa, Bengaluru has been selecting the best ball players and that is why they play attractive football even when they have four foreign players on the field. They have a star in each play, which shines when he is in possession. Despite being down the table, they are the only team that cannot be overwritten.
Goa has hosted just two of the eighteen games of the ISL and the remaining games after the break before India’s international duty will throw more light on the road ahead for FC Goa. At the moment, it does not look good because Sergio appears to be focused on the tip instead of the league title.
(ISL match story on Page 11)