The league phase of the inaugural Hero Indian Super League came to a close with an exciting 1-1 draw between NorthEast United FC and Mumbai City FC on a cold evening in the highlands of Guwahati.We had two teams that were last and second last in the table going up against each other in a bid to avoid being the team at the bottom of the table. It served up a delightful game with plenty of moments for both teams as the curtains came down on the league phase of the ISL.Here’s what stood out during this game:
#1 Glaring miss after glaring miss
The game ended 1-1, but it could have easily been 2-2, 3-3, even 4-3 to either of the teams for not only was it so open, but there were a whole host of chances that both teams fumbled and ended up not converting.
There were some absolute sitters in all of this that the teams somehow made a hash of – Massamba Lo Sambou missed an open header and on another chance slipped in front of goal when a simple touch would have gotten his side a second goal, while for Mumbai substitute Nadong Bhutia shot when he should have crossed for a teammate bang in front of goal and decided to pass when he should have shot to squander two golden opportunities for the visitors.
Abhishek Yadav and Tomas Josl too had their fair share of fumbles for their respective sides. NorthEast United had 6 shots on target and 7 off target; Mumbai had 12 on target and 10 off target. And the game had only two goals – tells you a story!
#2 No holding back despite nothing to play for
After Atletico de Kolkata got the required point from their home game earlier in the day, both NorthEast and Mumbai knew that their upcoming match would be their last of the tournament. But the players gave it their all and there was no lull in the match as can sometimes happen in dead rubbers.
Both teams were keen to get a win to round off their campaigns and perhaps the wastefulness they displayed was a result of that, as they snatched at some of the chances. It was a fitting way to round off proceedings in the round-robin phase.
#3 Officiating far from stellar
The officiating in the game was below par. The penalty to NorthEast United was a 50/50 decision and could have gone either way; no qualms on that. That apart, there were some horrendous errors made by the referee during the game.
He awarded NorthEast United a corner kick towards the end of the first half though Durga Boro had quite clearly scuffed his shot wide as opposed to it taking a touch off a Mumbai defender.
Deepak Mondal, the closest defender, was miles away from the ball. On another occasion he penalised Tiago Ribeiro for jumping unfairly when in fairness Robin Gurung had clattered into the Mumbai man from behind. Hopefully we don’t get to see such errors in games going forward, more so as we are in the knockout phase.
#4 A smile on Peter Reid\'s face
When Mumbai’s Sushil Kumar Singh scored a glancing header past T.P. Rehenesh to level the scores, a smile of satisfaction broke through on the face of coach Peter Reid. Perhaps it was relief, perhaps happiness that they didn’t give up and kept going, ending what has been a disastrous campaign on a positive note.
We’ve seen him many wear things on the touchline, from t-shirt and tracks with a cap, to a suit and tie, sometimes with a bandana, sometimes with a cap. But one thing that we’ve hardly seen him wear is a smile, so that was something memorable and will be a source of some solace for his players too as they’ve been hearing their gaffer scream out instructions and sigh in disbelief at some of their more disappointing performances.
#5 A huge football market goes out of the competition
NorthEast United knew that they would not be playing in the semis after Kerala Blasters won last night. The team is the youngest of all the teams, bearing the lowest average age and it saw great crowds at each of its home games in a part of the country where the sport is hugely popular and where from the supply line of players is enormous.
The other two major football markets, Kolkata and Kerala, have made it through to the final four. Sadly, we will not be seeing the North East of the country in it.