Manchester United
12:00 PM UTC
Game Details

ISL stalemate: 2 matches, 0 goals but don't panic yet

This is the worst start ever to an Indian Super League (ISL) in terms of goals.

While 2014 and 2015 had opening matches that saw three and five goals respectively, last year's opener saw a moment of magic from NorthEast United's Katsumi Yusa that sent Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Stadium on its feet, and his team on their way to a 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters.

This year had two decent match-ups on paper to get the season going -- a rematch of the 2016 final between Kerala and ATK but with a pronounced Manchester United flavour to it, and then newcomers Jamshedpur FC against NorthEast. Kochi laid out one of the best pitches in the country, even though it was a humid night, but the quality of play on both nights has been poor. There have been few phases of cohesive attacking play, and no goals.

Squad overhaul

Needless to say, this is a poor advertisement for the expanded ISL, and there would be an easy temptation to link it with six Indian players in the playing eleven, up from five last year.

The main reason could still be that most teams have had an overhaul from last season and will take some games before they begin to gel.

An expanded version of the league has meant some teams have needed to be more conservative with their pick of foreigners. While big names sought to give the league its early momentum, season four should be the acid test of how well teams will balance out foreigners of quality with little experience and those experienced players who are perhaps nearing or past their sell-by date.

Poor finishing

Some of the finishing has been off, and India international Holicharan Narzary would be particularly unhappy that he missed a couple of very good chances against Jamshedpur, but mostly it has been down to the service. The midfield of Kerala in particular looked off-colour, and that may have played a role in Dimitar Berbatov's unimpressive ISL debut.

Could things improve?

Business should kick up on Sunday, though, with the first double-header of the season. Chennaiyin FC probably have a better attacking line-up than most other teams, and FC Goa are another side building from scratch. Goa coach Sergio Lobera might be tempted to look for safety-first, as would Mumbai City FC's Alexandre Guimaraes in the day's second match in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru FC go into their first game with one of the most balanced squads, and will be buoyed by an opportunity to show just how good they have been as one of the best teams across all leagues in domestic football in recent years.

The ISL will be hoping that those teams and those players that look good on paper deliver on Sunday. At the moment, they won't be holding their breaths on floodgates opening. Even a trickle will do just fine.


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