A managerial sacking, teams scoring for fun and conceding for more fun -- this has been an eventful week in the non-stop life of the Indian Super League, and we have the best of it covered for you:
ATK Mohun Bagan slip out of first gear
And boy was it fun. When they dismantled Odisha 4-1, it was just the second time they'd scored more than two goals in a game this season. But unlike last week's fantastic 3-2 come-from-behind win, they didn't need to score more than two this time. That distinction is important -- all season long, they've done what's needed, barely. It's been effective, but it's been boring. Against Odisha, they were far from boring.
Admittedly, it's bottom-of-the-table Odisha, but considering the reverse fixture ended 1-0 (Roy Krishna, 95th minute), this mattered. For once, Antonio Habas set out his men to score goals, loads of goals. And they did.
Meanwhile, the common factor in those two goal gluts? This man --
16 - @atkmohunbaganfc attempted 16 shots against @OdishaFC, their highest in a match in the @IndSuperLeague. Since the addition of @marcelinholeite, #ATKMB have attempted 30 shots, hit 13 on target and scored 7. Attacking. #OFCATKMB #LetsFootball #HeroISL pic.twitter.com/fHqLCsqjnd
- OptaJeev (@OptaJeev) February 6, 2021
Marcelinho was unimpressive at Odisha, out of form and out of sorts, when ATKMB came calling a fortnight ago. Now, he's the creative hub of what is suddenly looking like one of the league's scariest offences. Early days yet, but this appears to have been just the kick Habas and co. needed ahead of that one final push for the AFC Champions League spot.
East Bengal show their best, and their worst
On Tuesday, East Bengal rolled over and let Bengaluru FC walk all over them. They dominated the ball (72% possession, more than 2.5 times the number of passes) and yet could not take a shot on target all game. The first time they've done that this whole season. Then they learnt that Robbie Fowler was going to be banned for the next four games.
If all that was a new low, then on Sunday, against Jamshedpur, SC East Bengal played the best 80 minutes of football they have all season. Defensively, they kept a potent Nerijus-Valskis-led attack at bay with ease. They dominated the game in the middle of the park. They put away two good chances with clinical efficiency up top. Then they rode their luck in the last ten minutes as old, bad habits slipped in -- but they held on.
So, for now, while the mathematical possibility exists, the playoffs will always be the target. Whether they can achieve it will be dependent on who of Tuesday's Mr. Hyde or Sundays' Dr. Jekyll show up to the party in the next four games.
Weekly Chennaiyin stats roll call
Shots at goal: 14
Shots on target: 6
Goals scored: 0
Oh, and if you were looking for an easily digestible video that would perfectly encapsulate their season so far, look no further --
.@ChennaiyinFC just needed so���� ����re luck to grab a winner ��♂️
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) February 5, 2021
Kerala Blasters entertain everyone. Almost.
When you can fix only one of two extremely broken things, what would you choose? Attack or defense? Kibu Vicuna chose the former, and the neutral couldn't be more grateful.
Because the only way it appears Kerala Blasters will ever win a game of football is if they score three or more goals every match. They know this, so they don't ever stop trying. Jordan Murray up front and Gary Hooper just behind him create chance after chance. Rahul KP is a livewire on the right. On the left, Sahal Abdul Samad is playing his best football since his breakthrough season. Behind them, Vicente Gomez, Juande, and the now injured Facundo Pereyra constantly look to play the ball forward.
They have found no consistency yet, which means they don't score nearly as much as they should considering the chances they create, but combine their attacking mindset with a defence that has all the 'you shall not pass' seriousness of a sieve with a giant hole in the middle, and it makes for some properly fun games. Well, as long as you don't actually support them.
Odisha's clarity of thought in sharp contrast to their ex-manager's
Stuart Baxter's post-match comments after his team's 1-0 loss to Jamshedpur caused considerable -- and justified -- consternation. Speaking to the broadcasters after the match, Baxter said 'one of my players would have to rape or get raped in the box to get a penalty.' Odisha acted promptly. They issued an immediate apology, and by noon the next day, Baxter was gone, with the club owner making it clear from his personal twitter handle that there was only reason behind the sacking.
Lavanya I can personally say the sacking was only related to the vile post match comments. The form of the team didn't factor into this decision. https://t.co/UFp43YkmOx
- Rohan (@MrRohanSharma) February 2, 2021
Baxter would later tell South African website Soccer Laduma that "I was searching for the words and I got it wrong". When called upon, though, Odisha and their management got their words right.
Player of the week - Manvir Singh
Has there been a more improved player this year than Manvir Singh? The forward looks faster, stronger, and much more decisive, and Saturday saw his finest display yet. He scored two, set up another, and was a constant menace on the right flank. He has developed a lovely understanding with scorer-in-chief Krishna and seems to be getting on the same wavelength as creator-in-chief Marcelinho, hinting at greater heights ahead. .
Also, it doesn't hurt when one of the goals you score is a goal-of-the-season contender. Race down the right at extreme pace, chop back onto your left leaving an already struggling defender for dead, whip the ball powerfully into the postage stamp that is the far top corner of the goal. Just... sumptuous.