The Indian Super League has finally returned to the fans, who experienced live footballing action in the flesh for the first time since the 2019/20 season (barring last season’s final). The first week of the top-tier league gave us the typical ISL experience. From shoddy refereeing to last-minute drama and extended floodlight failure to the underdogs tipping the favorites, we saw it all.
In this article, we reflect on the key moments of the week gone by in the newest iteration of the Indian Super League.
Adrian Luna, Prince of Kerala
The little Uruguayan had done it again. A delectable long ball by Harmanjot Khabra met his extended left foot as he hung mid-air. The ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced into the net, beyond the helpless arms of East Bengal shot-stopper, Kamaljeet Singh. The stadium went into raptures as the camera jarringly focused on the goalscorer. It was a similar occurrence if you were a Blasters fan, but this time it meant more.
Through the shaky lens, one could see an inconsolable Adrian Luna pointing to the sky, to his daughter who he had lost recently. The overwhelming sea of yellow washed over him as he knelt down on the ground, unable to hold back his tears. His teammates surrounded him in joy as he rose again, to lead his team over the finishing line. There couldn’t have been a more beautiful and poignant start to the competition.
The goal would transform what had been a cagey battle so far. The introduction of Ivan Kalyuznhyi and his quickfire brace ensured a KBFC victory, despite Alex Lima pulling one back for the Red and Gold Brigade in the dying stages. All concerns over the Blasters getting overwhelmed by the Manjappada crowd were brushed away, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi could become one of the most hostile places to travel to for the other sides.
ATK Mohun Bagan flatter to deceive, again
After two different competitions (both lost) before the ISL season, around four months of rigorous work to improve chemistry, and a flashy transfer window with players signed of high repute, Juan Ferrando and his team still cannot find the right combination to dominate games. While this may sound a tad bit too harsh (and too early), there is no room for error for the Green and Maroon Brigade.
Against a new-look Chennaiyin FC, a flurry of early attacks culminated in a Manvir Singh goal from a swift counterattack. However, their dominance waned after a floodlight failure. Head Coach Juan Ferrando claimed that it had a psychological impact on his players. “When we stopped the match in the second half, the team got distracted and lost their focus in the match, It got difficult after the penalty”, he said.
Kwame Karikari, who looked promising throughout, won and scored the penalty. In the 82nd minute, he delivered a low cutback for Rahim Ali, who capped off his late run into the box with a crisp finish in the bottom corner. Very few keepers in the world could save a strike placed so well. The 2-1 win will do Brdaric’s men the world of good as they take on Bengaluru FC next in their first home game in the ISL.
A Battle for the ages
Hyderabad FC and Mumbai City FC, Champions of the last two editions of the ISL, clashed in the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium in Pune to kick off their campaign. What followed was a sensational display of attacking football juxtaposed with unfortunate defensive moments.
In the 22nd minute, Chinglensana Singh beautifully wrapped his foot on a cross and tucked it into the bottom corner. However, much to his dismay, it was into his own net from a Bipin Singh pass and Mumbai had taken the lead. Joao Victor equalized from the penalty spot and Halicharan gave the Nizams the lead as HFC looked on course to repeat their 3-1 victory from last season.
Greg Stewart, however, had other plans. The Golden Ball winner from last season scored and assisted Alberto Noguera, bringing the scoreline to 3-3. Both teams look set to score a lot of goals this season with the plethora of attacking options at their disposal, but questions still linger on the defensive front.
Late Late Drama
Odisha FC and Bengaluru FC picked up wins in their openers in dramatic fashion in the death, although in very different moods. After Jamshedpur’s attacking trident of Daniel Chima, Boris Singh and the irrepressible Ritwik Das launched an early onslaught and picked up a 2-0 lead, Odisha FC were staring at sure defeat. However, Diego Mauricio, the returning Juggernaut Hero, headlined their comeback, scoring the winner in the 91st minute to pick up their first three points of the campaign.
Bengaluru FC’s much-awaited return to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, albeit victorious, was marred by controversy. In the first minute of added time, NorthEast United FC’s Jon Gaztanga had thought he had neutralized Alan Costa’s header to secure a point for his side. However, his volley was chalked off by the linesman in what was deemed to be offside by a NEUFC player earlier. A furious outburst by NorthEast’s Marco Balbul saw him getting marching orders from the referee, while the BFC players were left digesting what had just transpired.
Indian Team of the Week of the Indian Super League
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