MW18 takeaways: Mumbai City FC close in on the Sheild, Bengaluru FC's timely streak
The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is fast approaching the business end of the season and the race for the playoff spots and the League Winners’ Shield is getting tighter by the week.
Matchweek 18 saw big developments in both these races as the table began to take shape.
The matchweek started with Odisha FC being held to a 2-2 draw by Chennaiyin FC before East Bengal FC stunned Kerala Blasters FC at the Salt Lake stadium.
Then in the biggest match of the week featuring the league’s top two sides, Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC, no inch was given by either side as they played out a 1-1 draw.
Jamshedpur FC then triumphed in Guwahati to add pace to their late-season improvement before Bengaluru FC entered the top six after their first-ever win over ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero ISL.
Matchweek 18 threw up some interesting talking points. Here are the most pressing ones:
Odisha FC losing steam at the wrong time
The Juggernauts went into the match against CHennaiyin FC having won just one of their previous seven matches but made the perfect start in Chennai when Diego Mauricio fired them in front in the 24th minute. Anirudh Thapa though immediately restored parity for the hosts before Odisha FC again went ahead through Isak Ralte in the 48th minute only for Chennaiyin FC to hit back nine minutes later through Abdenasser El Khayati.
Josep Gombau’s men lost two points despite taking the lead twice and have now accumulated just seven points in their last eight matches. Their poor run of form has coincided with Bengaluru FC’s resurgence and it means Odisha FC need to turn the tide quickly or miss out on the playoffs once again.
Stephen Constantine makes a point or three
Under pressure for failing to sustain East bengal FC’s playoff bid, head coach Stephen Constantine managed to get a strong response from his troops as they beat last year’s finalists Kerala Blasters FC 1-0 in Kolkata thanks to a Cleitin Silva goal deep in the second half.
It was only the second time that East Bengal FC have kept a clean sheet this season and it may have come too late for the Red and Golds to launch a late playoff bid, it will give them the impetus going into the Super Cup and the next Hero ISL season.
The Red and Golds are on course to record their highest points tally in Hero ISL and are just two points short of their best tally of 17 points in the 2020-21 season.
Constantine expressed optimism for a bright future for the Kolkata giants after the match.
“I think when you see the performance, we beat Bengaluru FC twice, home and away. We beat these guys, they're in the top six. So, we are capable. We just need time and we will get where we need to be. It's not going to happen overnight,” he said.
Advantage MCFC in League Shield race
Mumbai City FC took a major step towards the League Winners’ Shield after they held second-placed Hyderabad FC to a 1-1 draw at the Mumbai Football Arena on Saturday.
The Islanders went ahead through a first-half penalty from Jorge Pereyra Diaz before Hitesh Sharma equalised for the visitors after the hour mark. It was a closely-contested affair that rightly ended all square.
For Mumbai though who remain seven points clear of Hyderabad FC having played a game more it was a precious point considering they were without midfielder Ahmed Jahouh due to suspension and could also use Greg Stewart only from the bench due to a niggle.
The Islanders can now lose a match and still win the Shield if they win the other two games and given their form, you put them as favourites to do the job.
Jamshedpur FC set for strong finish
Jamshedpur FC’s performances have improved in the last few weeks and their clinical 2-0 win over NorthEast United FC was a proof of that.
Ritwik Das and Daniel Chima Chukwu scored the goals as the Red Miners picked up their third win of the season.
With the Super Cup and the AFC playoff on the horizon, Jamshedpur FC need a strong finish to the season and it seems they may just do that. They were the kings last year but this year they can prove to be kingmakers in the race for the playoffs.
Old faces haunt ATK Mohun Bagan as Bengaluru FC’s resurgence continues
Bengaluru FC won their fifth game on the spin to enter the playoff spots as they beat ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1 in Kolkata.
Former Mariners Javi Hernandez and Roy Krishna were on target as old faces came back to haunt ATK Mohun Bagan who still have work to do to secure a playoff spot.
As for Bengaluru FC, they are peaking at the right time and seem to have all the momentum in their favour for the final stretch of games.
For the Blues, a season that was looking very bleak could have a very promising end to it.