It took 14 penalty kicks to finally decide the winner between Indian Super League (ISL) side Jamshedpur FC and I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC in a Round of 16 clash of the Super Cup 2018 on Monday in Bhubaneswar.
The two sides played 120 minutes of gruelling football which failed to produce a single goal. Numerous missed chances and some stellar goalkeeping by Sanjiban Ghosh helped Jamshedpur save ISL’s face against the newly crowned I-League champions.
In the aftermath of the match, Jamshedpur coach Steve Coppell did not hesitate to point out that it was a matter of ‘common sense’ that the extra 30 minutes before the penalty shootout was pointless as the players could barely move their tired bodies.
The former Crystal Palace boss clearly stated that keeping the extra time rule after 90 minutes does not fit in Indian conditions, especially at the end of the season where the fitness levels of players are not optimum.
"At this stage of the season for both leagues, extra time is not really necessary. The penalties are exciting. When it gets to extra time, people just have no strength left. It shouldn’t be an endurance test; it should be a test of skill. 90 minutes is enough to decide. If at the end of 90 minutes it’s all square then straight to penalties because there can be too many players who can injure themselves for the long-term and it’s the clubs who suffer.
"I hope the league, the federation will see a little bit of common sense in the future and make it 90 minutes and then straight into penalties," said the Jamshedpur FC coach.
In the 114th minute, Minerva’s Bhutanese star Chencho Gyeltshen got an opportunity to score a goal and seal the fate of the match in his team’s favour. He had snatched the ball from Mehtab Hossain in midfield and outpaced Robin Gurung on the left flank before cutting in and taking a shot on goal. Sanjiban Ghosh stood firm on his ground and made the save, much to the winger’s agony.
Chencho’s move clearly exposed the fitness level of the Jamshedpur players especially Robin Gurung’s who started the match. It was evident that the defender, who is otherwise extremely fit and pacy down the flanks, could barely move and prevent Chencho from going forward.
Also, the Super Cup matches so far have clearly pointed out that there is not much of a difference between the ISL and the I-League sides when it comes to quality. The cash-rich franchises of the ISL have failed to establish their supposed authority over the I-League.
Defending champions Chennaiyin bowed out of the competition after losing to I-League’s fifth-placed Aizawl FC. Giant killers Gokulam Kerala had almost knocked a full-strength Bengaluru FC out of the competition but they somehow survived.
Similarly had Minerva not squandered multiple one-on-one chances in front of the goal, Jamshedpur FC’s debut season in Indian football would have ended last night.
Certainly the ISL teams aren’t taking the Super Cup seriously which is very evident given their listless performances. With no place in the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) tournaments on offer and prize money of mere INR 25 lakhs, there is little motivation for the clubs to do well.
The Super Cup has merely become a pointless exercise for the ISL teams.