ISL Musings: Jahouh masterclass, Ogbeche's comeback, Bengaluru's lifeline

Ahmed Jahouh played a vital role in Mumbai City FC's 4-0 hammering of Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. Divyakant Solanki/Focus Sports/ ISL

Mumbai City FC registered another statement result, but a Bartholomew Ogbeche-inspired Hyderabad FC ensured that they remained breathing down the Indian Super League (ISL) leaders' necks, in the latest round of matches.

We muse on a goal-filled ISL weekend.

Kerala Blasters enable an Ahmed Jahouh masterclass

Mumbai City were ruthless in pummeling Kerala Blasters to submission in the most anticipated clash of this ISL week - and perhaps the season. Four unanswered first-half goals did the job for Mumbai and the Blasters' tactics played right into their hands.

Mumbai set up in their usual 4-3-3, with Apuia and Greg Stewart flanking Jahouh, while Ivan Vukomanovic didn't stray away from his high-pressing 4-2-2-2 style. And that is where Jahouh came into the picture to put his stamp on the game.

Mumbai had the numerical superiority in midfield, but the Blasters' system was designed to catch their opponents out with high-intensity pressing. Jahouh's technical ability makes him one of the most press-resistant midfielders in the league. When he took players out with his ability to beat the press, the Blasters' defensive shape was there to be exposed.

Mumbai City off to promised land as Buckingham-ball leaves Blasters in tatters

Mumbai City - Jahouh in particular - were quick to spot the long ball behind Harmanjot Khabra (who replaced the suspended Sandeep Singh at right-back) as a massive opportunity. Bipin Singh kept making runs behind Khabra, Jahouh and co. kept finding him, and the game was done before the Blasters knew what had hit them.

Jahouh was replaced before the hour-mark and was having so much fun that he nearly found himself on the scoresheet with an audacious effort from his own half.

The beast that Vukomanovic has created - the dynamic pressing system was his team's undoing against Mumbai, and central to it was one of the best midfielders this league has ever seen, who turned up like it was just another day at work for him. Oh, and so dominant were Mumbai City that they could afford to take off Jahouh, Apuia, Stewart, Bipin and Lallinzuala Chhangte before the 75-minute mark.

Never doubt Bartholomew Ogbeche

Last week in this column, we wondered if Bartholomew Ogbeche would have to appeal to a higher power to get his goalscoring touch. This week, the ISL's all-time top scorer either appealed to said power or just asked everyone to calm down and not doubt him.

Chasing this Mumbai City side in the title race and being as close as Hyderabad are is an achievement in itself, but it threatened to be a difficult evening for them in Goa. The hosts FC Goa controlled large spells of play and threatened to derail Hyderabad's quest to catch the league leaders.

Not under my watch, was the emphatic Ogbeche response to that. A header put Hyderabad in front in the first half, but Redeem Tlang had equalised for Goa, and time was running out for Hyderabad to find the winner.

Then the poaching tiger in Ogbeche woke up. He hunted one down in the six-yard box after some pinball in the penalty area and smashed it into the roof of the net. A few minutes later, another header sealed the win for Hyderabad.

Where there is Saint Bartholomew, there is hope.

Odisha fly out of mini-rut

Before their clash against East Bengal at the Kalinga Stadium, Odisha FC hadn't won their previous four games - a run that was threatening their push to make the playoffs for the first-ever time. When Cleiton Silva pounced on some Amrinder Singh uncertainty to East Bengal the lead, it felt like a familiar tale of agony was coming back to haunt Odisha.

But Odisha have their own Ogbeche, and he goes by the name Diego Mauricio. He ensured East Bengal's lead only lasted 12 minutes by bullying Lalchungnunga out of the way to meet Raynier Fernandes's corner and put it in the bottom corner. Then he set up Nandhakumar Sekar's cross-turned-shot that put Odisha in the lead. Then he spun past and sped away from Ivan Gonzalez like he wasn't there before smashing home his second of the night.

Mauricio is Odisha's priceless gem, and as long as he is around, you can never count them out. Having a bit of momentum back should help Josep Gombau's side too.

Chennaiyin's spirit rescues a point where two were lost

Just how do you describe Chennaiyin FC this season? They are largely a fun side to watch, but it's not hard to imagine their fans wanting to tear their hair out every time they watch the side play.

Against a Jamshedpur FC side bereft of confidence, Chennaiyin just couldn't finish the chances they created in the first half, and by the hour mark, found themselves two goals down. The crossbar conspired against them to deny them twice, but Vincy Barretto and Petar Sliskovic ensured that Thomas Brdaric's side came away with a point.

However, in the race for the playoffs, Chennaiyin lost ground on sixth-placed FC Goa, in a game that they would've expected to take full points from.

Bengaluru give themselves a lifeline

Those playoffs remain a rather distant hope for Bengaluru FC, but this week, they clung on by the skin of their teeth. Alan Costa scored a second late winner against NorthEast United this season, to ensure the glimmer of hope for Bengaluru wasn't extinguished.

Sivasakthi Narayanan's thing of beauty for his first ISL goal, an encouraging midfield performance from Suresh Wangjam and a positive cameo from Udanta Singh would've all pleased Simon Grayson, but the spirit that saw them grab a 94th-minute winner has been a rare sight this season.

Sivasakthi's first ISL goal: Reading defence, instinctive finish and a glimpse of his potential

Bengaluru are six points off the playoffs with seven games to play, but they have to play six of the seven teams above them in the table. The glimmer of hope might be gone soon(ish).

Jamshedpur, NorthEast fight to beat ignominy

With seven games to go, Jamshedpur need four points and NorthEast need seven points. For what, you ask? We see you rubbing your hands, Chennaiyin fans!

Chennaiyin's 2018-19 haul of nine points remains the lowest in the ISL league stages to date, but both Jamshedpur and NorthEast are in danger of slipping even lower than that in what has been a disastrous season for both clubs.

In that pursuit, it doesn't help either club that this week, they let points slip. Jamshedpur should've added two more points but couldn't hold on to their 2-0 lead, while NorthEast couldn't hold on for a draw in injury time. Time is running out.