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The ISL Wrap: Bumbling refs, nervy debuts and more

David Williams of ATK celebrates scoring against Hyderabad in the ISL match at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on October 25, 2019.
David Williams of ATK celebrates scoring against Hyderabad in the ISL match at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on October 25, 2019.

Star of the week

Amrinder Singh.

That point-blank save off Ogbeche in the last minute of Mumbai's 1-0 win at Kerala. My. 

Listen closely; you can hear the thud of 40,000 jaws hitting the floor at the Nehru stadium.

Three days later, he would repeat those heroics against a rampant Chennaiyin, near single-handedly keeping the score at 0-0.

Is he simply too good to remain India's no. 2?

Flop of the week

There were quite a few to choose from - Manuel Onwu looking a little lost leading Bengaluru's front line, Hyderabad FC looking like they'd wandered onto a football field by accident, Lucian Goian's chaotic debut for Chennaiyin, but this week, the winner could only be one thing.

The opening ceremony.

Just, why?

Performance of the week

ATK's evisceration of FC Hyderabad.

David Williams and Roy Krishna showed glimpses of their potential against Kerala but against a hapless Hyderabad unit, they showed just what they could do and were simply unstoppable.

In support, Michael Soosairaj -- playing an unfamiliar left wing back role -- excelled, as did Prabir Das on the other flank. Jayesh Rane, in the middle, set the tempo. Edu Garcia came on to show his class and fellow substitute Komal Thatal performed superbly, freed of the pressure of the scoreboard. And we haven't even seen Jobby Justin yet.

This attacking unit really could light this season up.

Funky tactical tweak of the week

ATK rocking up with a back three was pretty fun, as was seeing Ferran Corominas play trequartista, but the funkiest of them all saw Carles Cuadrat playing Ashique Kuruniyan at left back for Bengaluru FC.

A fixture as a left wing forward, or at times, second striker for the Indian national team, many -- including me - had been looking forward to watching Ashique link up with Udanta Singh and Sunil Chhetri in a national-team-replica front three. This decision, though, came out from way leftfield.

The experiment has worked to a degree, in that it seems to utilize two of Ashique's best attributes - his endless stamina and his ability to dribble along the touchline. And he looked decent defensively for the most part.

But Coro exploited his inexperience to win Goa the penalty from which he levelled the game, and that's the thing with playing a natural winger deeper - mistakes such as this will crop up, and it will cost the team points. Is the payoff worth the risk?

From a national team point of view, meanwhile, the biggest worry is whether Ashique's attacking nous will survive the transition if this switch is made permanent.

Rant of the week

The refereeing. Oh god, the refereeing.

Offsides given against players who are five yards on, stonewall penalties denied, cards handed out left-right-centre or not-at-all, the honour roll of officiating horrors just keeps on growing longer. At what point does the league, and more importantly the federation, take up this issue in a constructive manner?

The officials face innumerable hurdles. They are overworked, underpaid, and rarely listened to, and it's terrible. However, the meek acceptance of this status quo is a no go. The onus is very much on the Federation. Do something? Please? 

Tweet of the week

How-NOT-to-build-player-confidence 101.

WTH moment of the week

Game over, ref? No? Yes? No?

Three and a half minutes into stoppage time post the ninety in Bengaluru's match at Goa, the ref seems to blow his whistle for full time. Well, everyone thinks he has - Cuadrat and Lobera hug it out on the sidelines, the players start slumping to the floor or chatting with each other, and the TV cameras pan out, ready to cut back to the studio.

A good two minutes later, the ref's spoken to everyone, asked the staff and subs to get off the field, and the teams restart play! Goa oblige, race forward from the goal kick, Jackichand Singh sticks one at the far post, and Len Doungel heads it narrowly wide. If that one had gone in, it'd have redefined the cliché 'nicked it at the end'.

Fifteen seconds of pure theatre.

Pleasant surprise of the week

Having Pradyum Reddy on commentary.

It's a pity a footballing brain such as his isn't on the touchline, but his calm delivery and astute reading of the game made listening to commentary an enjoyable, and learning, experience.


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