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ISL Wrap: Story of draws continues with Goa-NorthEast stalemate

Out of the seven draws seen in the league this season, three of the five games played in round 3 of the ISL have ended with both teams sharing a point apiece.

Written by Shashank Nair | Updated: December 4, 2020 8:35:46 am
FCG vs NEUFC, ISLMore than double the passes attempted, more than double the touches made by the opposition team – only for the game to end in a tame 1-1 draw. (PTI)

Juan Ferrando had to be scratching his head about this. His team FC Goa controlled the ball for most of the game. They made 82% of their 582 passes, while relegating the opposition, a North-East United FC team coached by another Spaniard, to a mere 113 successful passes in a 90-minute football game. More than double the passes attempted, more than double the touches made by the opposition team – only for the game to end in a tame 1-1 draw. Yet another disappointing result for a Goa team that really hasn’t done much wrong. But Ferrando only notching a draw this week, is the story that most in the league are now becoming familiar with this season.

The effects of a football season that has begun eight months after the end of the previous one has resulted in a sluggishness in results across the leagues with half of the 14 games played until now ending in stalemates. Out of the seven draws seen in the league this season, three of the five games played in round 3 of the ISL have ended with both teams sharing a point apiece.

In the case of some teams like Bengaluru, the reason for their two draws in two games becomes painfully obvious with a quick glance at the stats. Bengaluru have the lowest number of attempted shots in the league with 12 in 2 games, eight fewer than the team above them. They are in the bottom three for attempted passes with 676 in two games and second last when it comes to total touches through a game. For teams like Hyderabad FC, it has been a case of quantity over quality with their 45 shots in three games resulting in a solitary goal in their 1-1 draw this week against Jamshedpur FC.

Passing teams being countered?

Most metrics show that passing-heavy teams like Mumbai and Goa should be leading the charts but teams like ATK Mohun Bagan and NEUFC are countering their ball-dominant style of play in their own ways. While ATK have the advantage of the league’s best striker in Roy Krishna conjuring goals from virtually nothing for them, NEUFC have relied on Kwesi Appiah and Idrissa Sylla to score two goals apiece – while not having much of an Indian international team presence in their squad for the season. ATK are top of the table after beating Odisha FC on Friday, NEUFC are third in the league table despite enjoying far fewer time on the ball than the rest of the league.

‘Indians never been coached before’

After the 2-0 loss to ATK Mohun Bagan in the Kolkata derby, all eyes were on Robbie Fowler’s SC East Bengal and the response to their season opener. But as the games have gone on, Mumbai City FC’s all-star lineup have started gelling together and that culminated in a 3-0 drubbing of the Kolkata club.

The difference in both teams was stark. Mumbai City FC, City Football Group’s latest acquisition, has striker Adam le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche in their lineups. One was a star in the Australian A-League before financial reasons made him jump ship. The other is a proven goal scorer in the ISL. East Bengal, the final team to enter the ISL this season, have had to hastily conjure together a squad and the result of it has been needing to play Balwant Singh as their striker, which has not amounted to much.

It did, however, result in Fowler making a shocking claim in the post-match press conference that Indian players have probably never been coached before. “We are still coaching players; some Indian players look like they haven’t been coached before. We are teaching intricate passing. We’ll work on the training part, we’ll coach the players, because in all fairness I think a few of them have probably never been coached before, and that’s what we are doing,” said the ex-Liverpool striker.

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