NEUFC's comeback, Blasters' X-Factor, Chennaiyin FC's dominance: Key Takeaways from Matchweek 5
The matches in Matchweek 5 were nothing short of box office, with drama captivating the audience throughout.
Matchweek 5 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season was filled with intense action and thrilling comebacks. The week featured two remarkable comeback victories and another comeback to secure a point.
The week kicked off with Bengaluru FC hosting FC Goa, and it ended in a goalless draw, showcasing a brilliant tactical display by both head coaches.
NorthEast United FC exhibited incredible composure as they netted two late goals to secure a crucial victory against Jamshedpur FC.
Kerala Blasters FC welcomed Odisha FC at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, marking Ivan Vukomanovic's return after serving a ten-match suspension. The Blasters made a stunning comeback from a goal down to clinch a 2-1 victory on this special occasion.
Ten-man Mumbai City FC played out a 1-1 draw with Hyderabad FC, with own goals being scored at both ends.
Chennaiyin FC secured their second consecutive win with a dominating performance against Punjab FC.
Here are the key takeaways from Matchweek 5:
Victor Rodriguez was the brightest spark in a stalemate against Bengaluru FC
FC Goa midfielder Victor Rodriguez continued his fine performances in the game against Bengaluru FC. The match ended in a 0-0 draw, but Rodriguez's performance was the major talking point of the game.
The Spaniard has created 13 chances this season, which is the joint-highest in the league.
Rodriguez was the creative spark of the FC Goa team throughout the game. He started on the wings but often played through the middle to exploit spaces in the Bengaluru FC defence with his incisive passing. His remarkable runs through the midfield and pinpoint passing created numerous problems for the Bengaluru FC defence.
NorthEast United FC staged a remarkable comeback
Spanish defender Michel Zabaco and Brazilian forward Ibson Melo found themselves on the scoresheet late in the game as the Highlanders staged a miraculous comeback victory against a defensively strong Jamshedpur FC side. Zabaco was solid throughout the game and covered the defensive angles well in the first half. His communication with his fellow defenders was one of his strongest points in the game.
Read More: Last-gasp: A look at the most late match-winning goals in ISL
The Spaniard joined the attack as NorthEast United FC sought an equaliser in the second half. The home side dominated the entire second half, and they were rightly rewarded as Zabaco netted the equaliser in the 94th minute. The Highlanders applied more pressure at the end, and Romain Philippoteaux drew a foul in the penalty area in the final minute. Melo made no mistake in putting it past Rehenesh TP from the spot to complete a memorable comeback.
Adrian Luna proved to be the X-Factor once again
Uruguayan attacking midfielder Adrian Luna once again shone as the star of the show, propelling Kerala Blasters FC to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory against Odisha FC. Luna played a pivotal role in the win that elevated Kerala Blasters FC to the second position in the league standings.
Luna has been in excellent form this season, tallying three goals and one assist in the five games he's played for Kerala Blasters FC.
He seemed to be omnipresent in attacking positions throughout the game, consistently applying pressure to Odisha FC's defence whenever they attempted to transition the ball from defence to attack. Luna's brilliance was evident in the equalizing goal, as the 31-year-old delivered an early free-kick that resulted in the levelling score. The Blasters' captain ultimately sealed the victory on the occasion of their head coach's return to the dugout with an audacious chip that sailed over Amrinder Singh.
Own goals at both ends in another thrilling match at Mumbai Football Arena
In the early stages of the game, Mumbai City FC found themselves reduced to ten men when their goalkeeper, Phurba Lachenpa, received a red card from the referee. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Islanders continued to play their trademark free-flowing football, with Greg Stewart orchestrating their attacks from a deep-lying playmaker position throughout the match.
The home side took the lead with an own goal by Manoj Mohammed. However, Hyderabad FC mounted a strong late-game push, and drama unfolded at the Mumbai Football Arena in the dying moments of the match, as Tiri unintentionally put the ball into his own net, resulting in Hyderabad FC's first point of the season.
Is Connor Shields finally getting into his stride?
After netting the winner against Hyderabad FC last week, Connor Shields put in another clinical performance against Punjab FC as the Marina Machans romped to a convincing victory.
The Scottish forward not only scored two goals but was all over the pitch and is starting to look very dangerous with each passing matchweek. He constantly stretched a tight Punjab FC defence with his forward runs and clever offensive movement. His constant link-up play with his fellow forward players was a major cause for concern for the Punjab FC defence, which they could not cope with throughout the game.
His physicality also helped him play at a much faster tempo and pace throughout the game. He constantly looked to exploit spaces by making forward runs toward the little gaps that Chennaiyin FC could find and create throughout the game.