Week six of the Indian Super League saw Hyderabad FC's lead at the top of the table cut down to a point, while Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC continued to struggle. Here's what we made of the latest round of fixtures:
1-0, not to Hyderabad this time
Last week, Hyderabad FC won their fourth consecutive match by a 1-0 scoreline. This week, the tables turned on them, thanks to the Kerala Blasters. Dimitrios Diamantakos's early goal was a result of uncertainty from goalkeeper Anuj Kumar, who replaced the injured Laxmikant Kattimani.
It was an un-Hyderabad like performance from Manolo Marquez's side. Marquez's tenure with the club has been characterised by efficiency, both offensively and defensively. Yet against the Blasters, they had 16 shots, out of which only one was on target, and an uncharacteristic defensive lapse had them going behind.
This is not to say that the Blasters weren't good value for their win. Adrian Luna was generous with his sprinkling of magic, Diamantakos is getting better with every game he plays, and Nishu Kumar looks like he's finally in tune with the notes that Ivan Vukomanovic wants him to sing. That slugfest for the league shield is going down to the wire, isn't it?
Enraged English coaches take aim at their players
Simon Grayson and Aidy Boothroyd are both experienced coaches, who have been around the English game in the last couple of decades. Their respective first seasons in India have not gone to plan so far, with both Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC having won just one of the first six matches, and a total of just four points each.
When their teams lost yet again this week, Grayson and Boothroyd lashed out at their players.
Boothroyd's Jamshedpur lost 3-1 to Chennaiyin FC, having conceded a goal a minute after they got themselves back on level terms. Later in the press conference, Boothroyd said he was "angry, infuriated" by Jamshedpur's defending.
Even calling his players a "good group" felt like it was not softening the blow as it should. "If we keep that game at 1-1 for the next ten minutes, we will win that game as we will have the momentum. That was part of our game plan but to give it to your opponent on a plate is infuriating," Boothroyd said.
For a team that just won the Durand Cup a couple of months ago, Bengaluru now look a pale shadow of themselves, and Grayson was calling a spade a spade when he said that none of his players deserve to play next week.
"The experienced players are making dreadful decisions. We have got some good players who play with a heart and soul... individuals have to look at stupid mistakes," the Bengaluru boss concluded.
Nasser El Khayati - magic in his feet and a way with the words
Chennaiyin FC head coach Thomas Brdaric said after his side beat Jamshedpur 3-1 that he was forced to have a tough conversation with Nasser El Khayati that morning, to tell him that he wasn't starting.
El Khayati was not happy about it. The Dutchman told ESPN after the match that he was very disappointed and upset that he didn't start.
"But what can you do? That is professional football. You need to accept the decision and do one thing, when you come inside, you try to be the difference. Today, it was luck, and of course some quality," the winger said.
Some quality. An understatement if ever there was one. El Khayati's first touch was an inch-perfect back-post cross for Vincy Barretto to score. Then a few minutes later, he received a pass from Julius Duker, sat Peter Hartley and TP Rehenesh down with a smooth drag of the ball, and tapped into an empty net. Not some quality, that is a footballer with a touch of magic in his feet.
"You cannot compare me with anyone in India," El Khayati said. "Not regarding quality, but I always want to play. My character is like that. I have come to do something."
He did more than just something as Chennaiyin got their first home win.
Odisha are the ISL's comeback kings
Josep Gombau has something special brewing in the Kalinga air this season? The head coach made some tough calls pre-game, but saw his side 2-0 down to a buoyant East Bengal.
He made four changes at half-time, with Pedro Martin and Jerry Mawihmingthanga being two of the players that came on.
Within three minutes, Odisha were level with two goals from Martin. Then Jerry scored 17 minutes later to complete the comeback. Then Nandhakumar Sekar put the cherry on top of a very sweet Odisha cake.
They remain the only side currently in the ISL to have never made the playoffs, but the grit and resilience they've shown this season - this was their third win after being behind - has put them in with a solid chance of finishing in that coveted top six.
Fatorda frolic for FC Goa
This isn't the FC Goa that we saw under Sergio Lobera or Juan Ferrando. This new Goa, under Carlos Pena, can hurt teams in so many different ways.
1️⃣st Syrian to score in the #HeroISL ✅ ����
A special celebration to follow ��
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) November 20, 2022
Brandon Fernandes will pass and jink his way to joy, Edu Bedia will pull strings, Alvaro Vazquez and Noah Sadaoui are tireless, Iker Guarrotxena has finesse, and when all else doesn't work, Aiban Dohling will breeze past a defender and smash one from distance. And when all else fails, Fares Arnaout will power a header home from a set-piece.
Goa have quietly worked their way up to third place, and look a menacing unit already. They've still not settled on a defensive unit because of injuries, but those that are selected seem to be doing the job for them.
And when nothing seems to be working, the Fatorda Fortress turns up with joyous song and dance to pull them through. Beware ISL, Pena's Goa are here.