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ISL 2017-18: Kalu Uche is the most in-form striker in the ISL

06:17 SAST 2018/02/25
Delhi Dynamos
The 35-year-old has rolled back the years to hit top form in the business end of the ISL season…

Half of Delhi Dynamos’ goals (20) in the current edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) have been scored by Kalu Uche (10). In fact the Nigerian forward has scored right in his last six appearances.

What has changed for the former Almeria player?

You could possibly say that the Dynamos are finally playing as per Uche’s strengths. He is not the fastest player on the field. However, he is amongst the most experienced and is known to make intelligent runs inside the box. His ability to win aerial duels is commendable.

Not just being the burly number nine, he can also adjust to the pass-and-move brand of football. In the 2-0 win over Bengaluru FC, Uche won almost every duel and would then chest the ball down to his feet and play it for Lallianzuala Chhangte or Paulinho Dias. He brought the other attacking players into play and made them for effective by creating space for them.

Also Miguel Angel Portugal’s side have a host of wingers in their side but their crossing hasn’t always been the best. It wasn’t until Nandhakumar Sekar or Chhangte finding form that Uche got back to his best.

In the six earlier games in the first half of the campaign, Uche wasn’t provided any service whatsoever nor had any support from his fellow attackers.

In fact against ATK, he could have scored a hat-trick had it not been for Seityasen Singh to be selfish and aim for goal at least on three occasions when the better option would have been to cross it into the box to an unmarked Uche.

Coach Miguel Angel Portugal claimed that Matias Mirabaje and Manuel Arana turned the tide for his side after they came on. The Spaniard couldn’t be more right in his assessment. Mirabaje added solidity to the midfield with Joreon Lumu being shifted at the left-back position to keep Sibongakonke Mbatha quiet after he made a mockery of the experienced Sena Ralte.

Arana provided five key passes, successfully dribbled past his opponents on five occasions in as many attempts and played the role of a number 10 to perfection. He drew ATK players towards him only to slip the ball through for a Lumu or Singh which would create ample space for them to deliver a cross.

Add to that substitute Sajid Dhot too put in a better display in the centre-back role than Gabriel Cichero who was struggling against Robbie Keane and Mbatha.

Delhi are finally beginning to find form and although it’s a case of too little too late, this performance shall certainly lift the spirit of the players and the club. At least they wouldn’t have to suffer the ignominy of having finished at the bottom of the table.

With regards to ATK, it would be a brave decision to pick some of their players into one’s franchise for next season. Their performances are atrocious and despite taking a 3-1 lead to give it away in the manner in which they did, certainly their midfielders and defenders need to get some stick from Ashley Westwood.