Jahouh’s masterpiece, Ogbeche’s return, Bengaluru’s lifeline
In the latest round of Indian Super League (ISL) matches, Mumbai City FC had another big win, but Bartholomew Ogbeche made sure that Hyderabad FC stayed close behind the leaders.
We talk about an ISL weekend with a lot of goals.
Ahmed Jahouh’s Kerala Blasters masterclass
Kerala Blasters didn’t stand a chance against Mumbai City in the most anticipated ISL match of the week, and maybe the whole season. Mumbai won because they scored four goals in the first half and the Blasters did nothing to stop them.
Mumbai set up in their usual 4-3-3, with Apuia and Greg Stewart on either side of Jahouh. Ivan Vukomanovic didn’t change from his high-pressing 4-2-2-2 style. And that’s when Jahouh stepped in to leave his mark on the game.
In the middle of the field, Mumbai had more players, but the Blasters’ strategy was to press hard and catch their opponents off guard. Because of his technical skills, Jahouh is one of the midfielders in the league who can handle pressure the best. When he was able to beat the press and get players out of the game, the Blasters’ defensive shape was easy to see.
Jahouh, in particular, was quick to see that the long ball behind Harmanjot Khabra, who was playing right back in place of the suspended Sandeep Singh, was a huge chance for Mumbai City. Bipin Singh kept running behind Khabra, but Jahouh and the others kept finding him, and before the Blasters knew what hit them, the game was over.
Before the hour mark, Jahouh was taken off. He was having so much fun that he almost scored with a risky shot from inside his own half.
The dynamic pressing system that Vukomanovic made was his team’s downfall against Mumbai, and one of the best midfielders this league has ever seen was there like it was just another day at the office. Oh, and Mumbai City was so strong that they could take off Jahouh, Apuia, Stewart, Bipin, and Lallinzuala Chhangte before 75 minutes were up.
Never doubt Bartholomew Ogbeche
Last week in this column, we wondered if Bartholomew Ogbeche would have to pray to a higher power to get his goal-scoring touch back. This week, the ISL’s top scorer of all time either asked that power for help or just told everyone to calm down and stop doubting him.
Hyderabad are doing well to be so close to Mumbai City in the race for the title, but it looked like they were going to have a tough night in Goa. The home team, FC Goa, was in charge for a lot of the game and made it hard for Hyderabad to catch up to the league leaders.
Ogbeche said, “Not on my watch!” in a very clear way. In the first half, a header put Hyderabad ahead, but Goa’s Redeem Tlang tied it up, and time was running out for Hyderabad to find the winning goal.
Then, the tiger in Ogbeche that had been poached woke up. After some back and forth in the penalty area, he found one in the six-yard box and smashed it into the top of the net. A few minutes later, Hyderabad won because of another header.
There is hope where Saint Bartholomew is.
Odisha break out of a small rut
Odisha FC hadn’t won in four games before their match against East Bengal at the Kalinga Stadium. This was hurting their chances of making the playoffs for the first time ever. When Cleiton Silva jumped on some doubts about Amrinder Singh to give East Bengal the lead, it felt like Odisha was going through a painful story it had heard before.
But the people of Odisha have their own Ogbeche. His name is Diego Mauricio. He made sure East Bengal’s lead only lasted 12 minutes by pushing Lalchungnunga out of the way so he could meet Raynier Fernandes’ corner and put the ball in the bottom corner. Then, he set up Nandhakumar Sekar’s cross-turned-shot, which put Odisha in front. Then he went around Ivan Gonzalez and sped away from him like he wasn’t there. Then he scored his second goal of the night.
Odisha’s most valuable asset is Mauricio, and as long as he is around, you can’t count them out. Getting some momentum back should also help the team of Josep Gombau.
Chennaiyin’s spirit rescues a point where two were lost
This season, how would you describe Chennaiyin FC? Most of the time, they are fun to watch, but it’s easy to see how their fans might want to pull out their hair every time they see the team play.
Chennaiyin couldn’t finish the chances they had in the first half against a Jamshedpur FC team that didn’t have much confidence. By the hour mark, they were already two goals down. Two of their goals were stopped by the crossbar, but Vincy Barretto and Petar Sliskovic made sure Thomas Brdaric’s team got a point.
But in the race to get into the playoffs, Chennaiyin lost ground to sixth-placed FC Goa in a game that they should have won.
Bengaluru give themselves a lifeline
Bengaluru FC still has a long way to go to make the playoffs, but this week they barely made it. Alan Costa scored a late winner against NorthEast United for the second time this season, making sure that Bengaluru didn’t lose all hope.
Simon Grayson would have been happy with Sivasakthi Narayanan’s beautiful first ISL goal, Suresh Wangjam’s encouraging midfield performance, and Udanta Singh’s positive cameo, but the team’s spirit in getting the winning goal in the 94th minute hasn’t been seen much this season.
With seven games left, Bengaluru is only six points away from making the playoffs, but they have to play six of the seven teams above them. There might not be any hope left soon (ish).
Jamshedpur, NorthEast fight to beat ignominy
Jamshedpur needs four points in its last seven games, while NorthEast needs seven points. Why, you might ask? We can see you Chennaiyin fans rubbing your hands together.
The nine points that Chennaiyin got in 2018-19 are still the fewest ever in the league stages of the ISL, but Jamshedpur and NorthEast are both in danger of getting even fewer points in what has been a terrible season for both teams.
In this race, it doesn’t help either team that they lost points this week. Jamshedpur should have gotten two more points, but they couldn’t hold on to their 2-0 lead, and NorthEast couldn’t hold on for a tie in injury time. We’re running out of time.
Vlahovic Double Helps Juventus beat Salernitana 3-0.
Juventus beat Salernitana 3-0 in Serie A on Tuesday, with striker Dusan Vlahovic scoring two goals and setting up another to lift the visitors to 10th in the table.
Vlahovic, a Serb who has been injured a lot this season but played in the league for the first time since October, found his old form again in this match.
Hans Nicolussi gave Juventus a penalty kick when he sent Manuel Locatelli off in the 26th minute. Vlahovic converted the penalty.
Vlahovic almost scored a second goal in the 37th minute, but his shot from the edge of the box from an acute angle went just past the post.
At the end of the first half, Filip Kostic made it 2-0 when he tapped the ball in from close range after Vlahovic’s initial shot had bounced into his path.
In the last seconds before the halftime break, Locatelli ran into the penalty area unchallenged and gave Juventus a chance to score a third goal. However, Salernitana goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa reacted quickly to prevent Locatelli from lobbing the ball over him.
80 seconds into the second half, Vlahovic scored his second goal when he ran through the penalty area and shot the ball flat into the right corner.
In the 51st minute, Junior Zambia hit a cross that reached almost everyone in the box, but Salernitana striker Boulaye Dia could not stretch far enough to put the ball in the open net.
“The team responded well and we played a good first half. But after taking a 3-0 lead, we got a little too comfortable and allowed too many shots on goal. We did not move enough and stayed in the same places, and the players know we have to do better,” Allegri said.
“In the first 10 minutes we played the ball too often down the right side. We need to improve the passing game, become more supple and keep things simple.”
Angel Di Maria hit the crossbar after 53 minutes and Moise Kean hit the post just before the end of the game, preventing Juve from adding to their tally.
The win moved Juventus to 26 points after 21 games, while Salernitana dropped to 21 points and 16th place.
Spanish football’s poor treatment of Vinicius Jr encourages racist abuse.
Vinicius Junior is a great winger for Real Madrid. He is young, talented, exciting and successful. Moreover, he is black and comes from Brazil. In my opinion, he is treated terribly in Spanish football and in some parts of the country. Partly because of the colour of his skin. What is happening is a disgrace, and people who are fair, decent, and honest should be outraged and protesting about it.
Last season, when he was still 21 years old, he was part of the best, most important and exciting duo in all of football. He and Karim Benzema combined to score and set up 100 goals and assists as Real Madrid won the Spanish and European titles simultaneously for the second time in 64 years. He played a huge part in this amazing achievement.
This season, Vinicius Jr was involved in 19 goals in 31 games (13 goals and 6 assists), in a team plagued by injuries. When Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was out with an injury, Vinicius Jr had to take over Benzema’s duties. He’s doing a good job, even if Madrid is finding it difficult to play as consistently and strongly as they did last season.
At 22 years old, he is a winger, not a goalkeeper, not an organising midfielder, and not an experienced centre back. I say that because it’s important that you understand how important he’s become: he’s by far Madrid’s most used player this season and has played more minutes than anyone else. He has been in the starting eleven in 31 of Los Blancos’ 32 games and has played in all of them.
The European champion will play at least 25 more games this season, but could play up to 32 more. If all else remained the same, this young man with what Carlo Ancelotti calls “amazing, elite athleticism and robustness” would be in every single starting eleven XI of the Italian coach’s squad, which could be 64 games.
But if those who bully, provoke, insult and attack him here in Spain have their way, this rising star, who finished eighth in last year’s Ballon d’Or voting, will be injured or suspended for most of those games. That’s how bad people are who try to hurt Vinicius Junior .
In recent weeks, Vinicius has worked hard to play well even though almost everyone else on Ancelotti’s team has struggled for one reason or another. He’s had to watch a picture of him being hung from a bridge in Madrid, he’s had to deal with racist abuse from fans that LaLiga has confirmed in several games this season, and he’s had to deal with Valencia’s Gabriel Paulista trying to kick him in the air, which was an outrageous and unacceptable action. Vinicius is fouled more often than any other player in any of the top five European leagues. He also has to listen to or read a lot of stupid sayings from people who should know better that he, Vinicius Junior , is the problem.
If all this happened to a young, white Spaniard, I think there would be a huge outcry of horror, and everyone would agree on who is right and who is wrong. Even though I have no proof, this is my honest and firm opinion.
Mallorca isn’t the only villain in this situation, but they’re a good example of how Spain and Spanish football are letting Vinicius Junior down. Over the weekend, the winger was fouled 10 more times. In Madrid’s 1-0 defeat, opposing and home fans created a hostile environment, but not always. One of his attackers, Pablo Maffeo, tricked the referee into giving him a yellow card.
Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez, the referee, would have needed eyes in the back of his head and three or four assistants to keep track of all the tricks used to hurt, bully and annoy the young Brazilian star. Since Isco in 2013, no Madrid player has been fouled as many times every nine minutes as Vinicius at Son Moix. Ten years without such treatment.
The behaviour of most Mallorca players is sad and underhanded, because they started this growing grudge, turned it into strategic bullying, and proved that George Bernard Shaw was right when he said that wrestling with pigs is a bad idea. “Never wrestle with pigs. You’ll both get dirty, but the pigs will love it,” said the great Irish playwright.
In other words, there are some fights you shouldn’t get into, because even if you win, you always end up looking bad. That’s how it’s gone so far between Vinicius and Maffeo, Martin Valjent and Antonio Raillo, all playing for Mallorca.
This rivalry was evident in Madrid’s 3-0 win on the island in March. Referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez saw nothing wrong with Maffeo’s lunge with his legs outstretched and studs against Vinicius, which hit both of the winger’s legs, right shin and left knee. When Vinicius refused Maffeo’s offer to pick him up off the ground, a scuffle ensued. Valjent and Raillo both walked up to the Brazilian, poked him in the chest and told him to shut up. Maffeo grabbed Vinicius by the shirt and yelled at him for not shaking hands and complained to the referee. Vinicius was given a card for his protest, which meant that the one who had committed a nasty, deliberate flying tackle that should have resulted in a straight red card and a long suspension got off unpunished.
Since then, these and other players have been trying to make people believe that Vinicius is the problem.
The Brazilian player has begun to defend himself against the insults they and other thugs hurl at him. He calls them names, asks the referees to protect him, and makes angry and frustrated gestures to the sky. In Paulista’s case last week, Vinicius jumped up from the ground where he had fallen and ran toward his Brazilian colleague. He almost struck, but managed to stop himself just in time.
At this point, it’s clear that Vinicius isn’t without blame. He’s now stuck in the mud.
As G.B. Shaw warned, people who want to paint the Brazilian as a “bad guy” or a “problem” can now use his aggressive response to the attacks as false evidence of his guilt, thanks to their bad behaviour and the incredibly short attention span of some media and fans. Gaslighting is underhanded and cannot be tolerated. That’s just the way it’s.
The other day, Maffeo said: “When I was in school, my teachers said I wasn’t very good at following rules. My mother told me that the teachers can’t all have it in for me, so I must be doing something wrong. I think Vinicius feels the same way. We don’t all have it in for him, we just think there must be something.”
In the days leading up to the game, Raillo said, “If I ever had to show my kid two great Madrid players, it would be [Luka] Modric or [Toni] Kroos, but never Vinicius
Last month, when Madrid overturned a 2-0 deficit to beat Villarreal 3-2 in the Copa del Rey, Vinicius scored the first goal. After the game, a short-tempered journalist asked Ancelotti, “…but with Vinicius there are always some problems…” The Italian replied, “From what I saw, his opponents kicked him a lot today, as they always do.”
Ancelotti said Sunday afternoon, “Today the referee didn’t care about the many fouls. When fouls happen over and over again, the player should be sent off. Vinicius isn’t to blame for what is happening. He just wants to play football, but his opponents make it difficult for him because they foul him. In this case, the focus on the outside world has to change. Now it’s time to find out what happened to Vinicius today
During the night, when Paulista tried to pull Vinicius’ leg away from his body, the winger’s Madrid teammates reacted in a very important way. Previously, they often left him to himself and gave him the ball as soon as the game started again, so he could hurt the people who disturbed him.
Not this time. They also know that things will soon get completely out of control.
The Valencia defender was sought by Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Dani Ceballos and even an injured Eder Militao. It was a clear and threatening “all for one and one for all” moment that should send a message to all future rivals: If you come for him, we’ll come for you.
Nacho’s message after the defeat in Mallorca was more moderate, like Ancelotti’s. He said, “I think people are creating a bad environment for Vinicius, which doesn’t help anyone, least of all him. We all love football, so let’s stop being so stupid”
A wise theme that is both balanced and hopeful.
Worryingly, vengeful opponents have noticed that Vinicius is often prepared for four fights at the start of every game: against his teammate, against the other team, against the referee and against the fans. This is because he’s drawn into a well-planned and malicious campaign to “hunt Vinicius down and then gas him.” He’ll eventually be distracted from his main goal, which is to win games. In the end, he’ll take out his frustration and anger on himself and be sent away. Eventually, the circus will get even bigger.
Can’t Maffeo, Valjent, Raillo, Paulista and people like them realise that their actions give racists a reason to do things like call Vinicius racist names on Sunday and hang the effigy on a bridge before the Madrid derby last month?
The way Vinicius is being treated is a big, ugly and increasingly bad problem for Spanish football. It’s time for everyone who sees things as they really are to keep raising their voices until this brilliant artist can do his work without being treated badly because of who he’s or the colour of his skin.
Lionel Messi regrets his World Cup match against Netherlands.
Lionel Messi has expressed guilt for his actions during and after Argentina’s World Cup quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands in Qatar.
Messi and his teammates were chastised after winning on penalties after a 2-2 stalemate on December 9.
The Paris Saint-Germain star celebrated his 73rd-minute penalty goal by sprinting in front of Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal and cupping his ears.
Messi said Van Gaal “disrespected” Argentina in his “pregame statements” after the game.
In a Paris interview with Andy Kusnetzoff’s “Perros de la Calle,” Messi claimed, “I knew what Van Gaal had said but it [the goal celebration] happened on the spur of the moment.”
“I hated my actions and what followed. Nervous situations arise swiftly.”
At full-time, the Argentina captain argued with Van Gaal and Edgar Davids.
During a postgame interview, Messi supposedly shouted at Netherlands goalkeeper Wout Weghorst, “What are you checking fool out? Bring there back.”
In the interim, Messi expressed he wouldn’t have it differently, in spite of the huge delay to lift the World Cup.
Argentina won their first World Cup in quite a while on punishments against France in Qatar, Messi’s fifth World Cup.
“On the off chance that I needed to pick a second, I guess it would have been this one,” Messi expressed. “It’s close to the furthest limit of my vocation, finishing a circle.
“I achieved all that I had expected with the public group. Separately, I accomplished everything in my profession. It was a fitting finish to my vocation.
“I never envisioned any of this would happen to me when I began, and arriving at this point has been the best… I have no issues and can’t request much else.
“We won the Copa America  and the World Cup; nothing else is left.”
Messi communicated lament that Diego Maradona couldn’t see Argentina’s most memorable World Cup triumph since the Napoli star helped his nation in lifting the prize in 1986.
Maradona, Messi’s mentor at the 2010 World Cup, passed on in December 2020.
“I wish Diego Maradona had given me the [World] Cup or in any event seen all of this,” Messi added.
“To have seen Argentina as title holders, considering the amount he looked for it and the amount he cherished the public group. I accept he from a position of great authority, as well as numerous others who care for me, invigorated me.”