MW17 Takeaways: Bengaluru FC's resurgence, Mumbai City's records and more
The playoff race saw new twists and turns in Matchweek 17 as Bengaluru FC entered the top six by replacing Odisha FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). A total of 17 goals were scored across five fixtures and there was a clear winner in each of five matches.
This Matchweek started from where it ended in the Matchweek 16, in the Fatorda Stadium as FC Goa registered a 4-2 win over East Bengal FC. At the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur FC came close to spoil the invincible story of Mumbai City FC but couldn't get over the line as the league leaders registered a 2-1 comeback win against the Red Miners.
Bengaluru FC is peaking at the right moment as they are on a four match winning streak after the 3-1 win against Chennaiyin FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru in this Matchweek. Double header Saturday also saw another comprehensive win as ATK Mohun Bagan recorded a 2-0 win over Odisha FC at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.
As started, Matchweek 17 ended in another southern coastal city, where Kerala Blasters FC bounced back after two consecutive losses as they beat NorthEast United FC with a 2-0 scoreline in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
Iker Guarrotxena's fires third-fastest hat-trick in Hero ISL history
Carlos Pena knew Iker Guarrotxena is quick with his feet, while finding spaces between the lines but against East Bengal FC, Guarrotxena showed that he is quick in finding goals too. The midfielder's 12 minutes hat trick, which eventually sealed the deal for the Guars, is the fastest hatrick this season and the third fastest in the Hero ISL, the hat trick also enabled the Spaniard to become the top goal scorer of the league with 10 goals and FC Goa to reach the fifth spot in the league with 26 points.
Whereas, East Bengal FC are still searching for a point in 2023, having lost all their four matches in the new year. Stephen Constantine's over reliance on Cleiton Silva made them vulnerable as Silva failed to score in the last two games. With this 4-2 loss, East Bengal FC faced a major setback in the playoffs race as they remained in the ninth spot with just 12 points.
Sweet sixteen for Mumbai City FC as records tumble
As they say, winning is a habit, the game against Jamshedpur FC showed that the Islanders forgot how to lose. Two late goals by Lallianzuala Chhangte and Vikram Singh personified their desire to remain unbeaten, despite trailing for the large part of the game. With this win, Mumbai City FC became the first team in the Hero ISL to have a 16 match unbeaten streak and the team with highest league stage goals (47 goals) in the Hero ISL history, one more than FC Goa in Hero ISL 2019-20 season.
Like in the reverse fixture, Aidy Boothroyd showed once again in Jamshedpur that he knew a thing or two about stopping the Islanders till the 80th minute. The Red Miners had 16 crosses, 15 shots, of which seven were on target, but the clinical finishing, which was shown by the away team in the last 10 minutes, is what failed the home team. In the last two outings combined, Jamshedpur had 33 corners and 32 shots but found the net just once. The Red Miners have got only themselves to blame.
Sivasakthi Narayanan, a new hero in the town for Bengaluru FC
Yes, Sivasakthi (Narayanan) can score with traditional toe poke, he can score with his weaker foot from outside the box, he can assist with the outside of the boot too. Against Chennaiyin FC, the 21-year-old showed few other skills in his bag. His brace showed that he can sprint half a ground and still calmly find the net and can chip in front of the goalkeeper and on -rushing defenders. The Blues have scored 11 goals in the last four matches and Narayanan has made 5 goal contributions in this period, the highest in the team and he is also the joint top scorer for the team in this season along with Javi Hernandez.
"He (Narayanan) is calm in front of the goal. Many players would be feared by that one on one situation, but not him. He got into that position and slotted it away like, it was Sunil Chhetri in his prime but he has a lot to learn and has a long way to go," said Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson.
For Chennaiyin FC, it was a forgettable outing at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. With this loss, Chennaiyin FC have now failed to win a match against Bengaluru FC in the last eight occasions as their last win against the Blues came in 2019. The Marina Machan's playoffs chance also looks bleak as they were on a six match winless streak and have scored only six goals in this time.
ATK Mohun Bagan found a number nine
Dimitri Petratos scored the first goal within three minutes from the kick off against Odisha FC and with another goal in the dying minutes, he put the game to rest. If the style of both the goals are anything to go by, ATK Mohun Bagan have finally found a number nine in Petratos. Creating the chances has never been a problem for Juan Ferrando's side, the late resurgence of Petratos could be the missing piece of his puzzle. With the seven goals to his name, the Australian is the highest goal scorer for the club in this season and looks to add more.
The loss at Kolkata made Odisha FC drop down to the bottom half of the table. Josep Gombau's side has tasted victory just once in the last seven matches. Doubts are now appearing over Odisha FC's playoff chances as their all attacking striking force failing to fire in the business end of the season as only one player, Diego Mauricio, has scored five of their last six goals.
Kerala Blasters FC: Clinical at the front and solid at the back
A brace by Dimitrios Diamantakos, the top scorer for the club this season, helped the Kerala Blasters FC get back to winning ways. It was the talking point in Kochi alongside the clean sheet. This 2-0 win, despite six changes in the starting XI, including three in the back four, shows how well drilled unit KBFC are. With this win, Kerala Blasters FC also matched their last season's record of nine wins, with five matches still in hand. They also equaled the record for most wins secured by them on home soil (6) in a single Hero ISL season.
On the other hand, NorthEast United FC recorded the 14th loss of this season, the most in the Hero ISL history. With this loss at Kochi, the Highlanders have lost all their eight away matches so far. But all is not lost for Vincenzo Alberto Annese's side as he saw some glimpses of hope for the future. "I’m happy with the performance because we created two or three chances, but we didn’t score. This is the best away performance we have had since I’ve been here for the last eight games," he commented.