Matchweek 16 of the Indian Super League (ISL) saw Mumbai City FC snap up their 10th win on the trot with a thrashing of NorthEast United FC, while Hyderabad FC became the second team to qualify for the playoffs after easing past East Bengal.
We muse, on the latest round of ISL fixtures.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nah, it's Mumbai City
Mumbai City have stagnated...atop the ISL table. It's a pity that no matter how well they play, all they can pocket are three points - they've been so lethal that three points often don't seem enough.
While Des Buckingham finds a new way to secure a win each week, teams have come up with no new means to challenge them. I mean, what do you do? Field 22 players? Assemble the Avengers? Mumbai City are just that good. No jinx.
So here they are, riding on a 10-match winning run and undefeated in 15 games, still finding new ways to perfect their craft. Not that there's a lot of room for that. We'd earlier said Mumbai City have a cheat code, but now we think they might just BE the cheat code.
PS. - Hey Jorge Diaz, you should have let Vikram Pratap Singh take that penalty. He really, really wanted it.
...and the Blues go marching on
They've got three back-to-back wins, scored three goals in two games on the trot and now have a realistic chance of making the playoffs: something's been seriously clicking for Simon Grayson.
He's found his best Bengaluru FC starting XI and the combination of Rohit Kumar, Sivasakthi Narayanan and Roy Krishna has done the trick. In the last three games, Rohit and Roy have netted two goals, while Sivasakthi has two goals and an assist.
The Blues need to ride the momentum to hold onto their playoff hopes. But there's one thing for sure: you just can't count 'em out. Especially not when the SRR (Siva, Roy, Rohit) show is on.
Hyderabad (Q) back to W ways
The defending champs' win over East Bengal means they've qualified for the playoffs...not that that was ever under any threat. They trail Mumbai City by four points and are the only real challengers for Buckingham's men. Firmly the underdogs in this two-team race for the League Shield title, it will all boil down to February 4 when the two teams meet. Will Buckingham outwit Manolo Marquez or will Marquez, the magician, have a new trick up his sleeve?
P.S. - Cleiton Silva's reaction when Gurmeet Singh denied him in the 68th minute was super wholesome. Silva held Gurmeet's head in his hands in awe, his expression something to the tune of "you beautiful b*****d".
Go Goa, go
Dear Carlos Pena, more of that, please.
The Gaurs outplayed Kerala Blasters in every department for their first win in five games. Brandon Fernandes was excellent on the evening as FC Goa exploited a jumpy Blasters backline. Goa produced some of the best football they've played all season, littered with smooth passes, plenty of sprints down the flanks and Dheeraj Singh's fine work between the sticks.
The three points have moved them to the fifth spot but they can't afford to take it easy: Odisha FC are only a point away and have a game in hand.
The Blasters, on the other hand, have slipped to two losses. It hasn't had a big impact on their playoff chances, but another loss could really throw a spanner in the works. They've two relatively easy fixtures coming up and it will be the right time for them to find their footing.
Why Chennaiyin, why?
There is still hope for Chennaiyin FC. But for that hope to materialize, they need to start winning - which is something they haven't been able to do in 45 days [D, L, D, D, D].
Chennaiyin are undoubtedly playing their best football under Thomas Brdaric but are yet to find that killer instinct in front of goal. They've managed only five goals in as many games since thumping seven past NorthEast United on December 10.
Maybe a good old derby could fire them up? Their next game is away to their fiercest rival - Bengaluru FC. Watch out, this will be a feisty affair.