After 65 games in, the Indian Super League has crossed the 200 goal mark this season, far quicker than the 87 games it took last year. After a week where COVID made its presence known in Goa and more devastatingly in Mumbai, here's what we learned from the action on the pitch:
Bart Ogbeche is an ISL legend
Only Bart Ogbeche can play in a support striker/No.10 role for much of the game and score a classic, opportunistic No.9 hat-trick.
Only Bart Ogbeche can return from suspension and eviscerate the opposition without missing a beat, scoring a perfect hat-trick - header, left foot, right foot.
Only Bart Ogbeche can be the all-time leading goalscorer for three - yes three - different clubs in an eight-year old ISL.
Only Bart Ogbeche can start the season 12 goals behind Sunil Chhetri and 13 behind all-time leading goalscorer Coro, and now be a goal behind the pair.
Manolo Marquez has a bonafide legend to lead Hyderabad FC to the title, and with his Indian talents like Aniket Jadhav absolutely thriving, things are looking rosy for the table-toppers.
Sunil Chhetri serves us a reminder
'Captain. Leader. Legend. Substitute' - is how this column described the best Indian footballer of this era a few weeks ago, and we have a healthy serving of humble pie to eat this week.
A delicious pie we're only too glad to eat, by the way, as Sunil Chhetri marked his return to the Bengaluru FC starting lineup after ages with a well-taken goal. Bengaluru FC were not looking too great against FC Goa on the hour mark, only for Chhetri to drag them back into the game with a bullet header.
The celebrations that followed him joining Coro as the ISL's all-time leading goalscorer with 48 goals were muted, with Chhetri all too focused on obtaining the three points. He very nearly did, a late left-footed curler from the edge of the box striking the crossbar. We were robbed of the perfect redemption story, but Chhetri did remind the entire league that the fire still burns brightly within. Captain. Leader. Legend.
East Bengal end their drought, but the joy is tempered
7th February 2021 - a 2-1 win over Jamshedpur was SC East Bengal's last win in the Indian Super League. 15 games, and 347 days later, the Kolkata giants finally ended their drought, with the same scoreline against FC Goa.
Naorem Mahesh's brace proved crucial as Mario Rivera began his era in winning fashion. However, for a team that's only won 4 of its 33 games over two ISL seasons, there's a long road back to the top.
Off the pitch, there was tragic news as Indian football legend Subhash Bhowmick, passed away. The ISL had a few brickbats thrown their way on social media for not observing a minute's silence in ATK Mohun Bagan's game, but SC East Bengal did mark his passing with a minute's silence ahead of their game against Hyderabad.
Covid continues to make itself known
Covid's impact on Indian football was felt more deeply elsewhere, but the ISL remained affected as well. Two games were postponed this week, with last week's league leaders Kerala Blasters, Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai City unable to feature.
ATK Mohun Bagan were cleared to play, but looked decidedly not ready, with coach Juan Ferrando admitting as much, saying ""We could only have two training sessions. Some players were out of their quarantine for only 24 hours."
ATKMB were all over Odisha in the first half, but lacked sharpness. The second half was telling however as they simply ran out of steam, barely managing a shot on goal as the game finished goalless. Other teams affected with Covid might do well to learn from ATKMB and perhaps rotate.
Amidst all the doom and gloom of NorthEast United's season, there were shoots of hope as Marcelinho made his first appearance for the club in the 1-2 loss to Chennaiyin. The Brazilian instantly looked like the player of yore, who has 33 goals and 18 assists in the ISL. In just 26 minutes on the pitch, Marcelinho created 3 chances, more than any other player in the whole game. Class is permanent, and all that, eh?
That Brazilian spark ✨@marcelinholeite almost made an impact on his @NEUtdFC debut, coming close to giving the Highlanders an equalizer!#CFCNEU #HeroISL #LetsFootball #ISLMoments pic.twitter.com/B4HwsiKb4E
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 22, 2022
Chennaiyin and Odisha remain in the hunt
Chennaiyin might be fourth and Odisha sixth, but the pair are only two and three points behind Hyderabad in first place, respectively.
CFC's 2-1 win over NEUFC might appear to some as though they've solved their goal-scoring problems, but looks can be deceiving. It's a footballing catfish if anything - NorthEast were good value for their halftime 1-0 lead, with only two very fortunate goals (a deflected strike, and an injured Mirshad Michu misreading the flight of Vladimir Koman's free kick) allowing Chennaiyin to walk away with all three points. Bozidar Bandovic's problems up front still remain, CFC's position in the table notwithstanding.
As for Odisha, there was a heartwarming moment in their 2-0 win over NorthEast, with Daniel scoring his first goal in the league since Feb 14, 2021. He's not been afforded too many chances to be fair, racking up only 129 minutes in 4 appearances this season. Meanwhile, Odisha remain inconsistent as ever, blowing hot and cold, with last week being the first time they've gone two games without a loss since the start of the season.