ISL musings: Vafa's message for Iran stands out, Mumbai and ATK Mohun Bagan serve up a feast

Vipin Pawar/Focus Sports/ ISL

'Week' 4 of the Indian Super League (ISL) and Hyderabad FC remain top of the pile, although it's incredibly tight among the chasing pack as we had our share of keenly-fought contests. Here's what we made of the latest round of fixtures.

Mumbai and ATK Mohun Bagan serve up a feast

The 2015 ISL final will forever remain the most memorable game in the history of the league - three late goals, goalkeeping errors, emotions running high in the aftermath, arrests, allegations - if OTT platforms were struggling for ideas for their next sports documentary...

And yet, when it came to pure footballing quality, it wasn't the best advert for the league. Mumbai City vs ATK Mohun Bagan though, absolutely was. For a game that finished 2-2, the scoreline could very well have been 7-7 - and this had nothing to do with the quality of defending on show.

The two teams simply raised their levels in attack, and the Mumbai Football Arena was witness to some stellar football from both sides - which was probably aided by the sizeable away contingent.

Lallianzuala Chhangte started things off with a bang, unleashing his trademark rocket after cutting inside with his left foot. It only escalated from there, as Manvir Singh, Hugo Boumous, Joni Kauko and Liston Colaco shined for ATKMB, while Greg Stewart, Bipin Singh, Ahmed Jahouh and Jorge Pereyra Diaz did likewise for Mumbai. Chance after chance was spurned as both sides conspired to delight in the build-up, fluff their finish or find the woodwork.

Statistically, there were 35 shots on goal (10 on target) and only a combined xG of 3.37, but the sheer amount of near-misses in the game left the crowd and viewers on the edge of their seats. Even the madness that surrounded the spell in injury time - where both teams could have won the game, was befitting of the two men that manage these two sides.

As Juan Ferrando and Des Buckingham gathered together to face the cameras in a slightly cringe attempt at a unique post-match show, the mutual admiration was there to see. Both managers have received criticism for their failure to organize a title-winning defence, but if the result is what we were served up, the status quo seems absolutely fine.

Goa and Jamshedpur swap places

Jamshedpur looked a far cry from the league-winning side of last year in their 3-0 loss away to FC Goa. Goa meanwhile, also look a far cry from the side that struggled to find the net last season. Carlos Pena has done wonders in a short time, and getting his side to score three goals from just 0.46 xG in open play is wonderful.

It's almost reminiscent of Owen Coyle doing the same with Daniel Chima Chukwu last season, with Pena's strikers converting that xG to 1.85 xGoT speaking volumes of the lethality of the shots they're taking this season. Goa look primed for a shot at the title this year, whereas Jamshedpur... do not.

Hyderabad and Blasters continue in the same vein

Another day, another efficient Hyderabad performance, another three points, another title? Mohammad Yasir was the Hyderabad match-winner this time, but the ease with which Manolo Marquez's side squeezed the life out of an impressive Odisha side ought to be disconcerting for the rest of the league.

No change from last week then, which was also the case for NorthEast United who were abject in their 0-3 reverse to Kerala Blasters at home.

The Blasters, however, weren't as good as the scoreline suggested, with NorthEast still in the game until a late Sahal Abdul Samad brace papered over the cracks. A step forward from a results perspective, but not in performance.

Jin, Jiyan, Azadi

The goal and the result were almost incidental in the aftermath of Chennaiyin's 1-0 win over East Bengal. Vafa Hakhamaneshi's celebration (#Women, #Life, #Freedom) in support of protests in Iran grabbed headlines, as did his sending off for a second yellow received due to said celebration. In his own words, Vafa had 'no choice'.

But you see, he did. He had every reason to stay silent, to not lift that shirt over his head, to tacitly accept what was going on, to 'shut up and dribble' as most sportspersons are told to. Like the FIFA president would like the footballers to. But Vafa didn't.

Even at the risk of costing his team the game (the discussion of the absurdity of the yellow card rule is a matter for another day). It's a relief that plenty of his teammates and fans have come out in support of Vafa's actions, although if this generosity would have existed had East Bengal gone on to win the game - one cannot be sure.

Jurgen Klopp's defence of footballers being dinged for not speaking up ahead of the Qatar World Cup is correct - they shouldn't have to. Which is all the more reason to applaud them when they do.

There are things more important than a game of football - a pandemic ought to have enforced that thought. Yet, the brain-dead criticism of Vafa's actions that emerged (from pundits and former officials within the game) should have some people really examine what comes out of their mouths/keyboards. Maybe they're the ones who should 'shut up and dribble' - then we'd be better off.