Ahmed Jahouh is turning ISL into Mumbai City's private playground

Ahmed Jahouh has been sensational for Mumbai since his return from suspension. Arjun Singh / Sportzpics for ISL

More often than not, the Indian Super League (ISL) looks like Ahmed Jahouh's private playground, and the rest of the field just mere bystanders.

There were at least a couple of Jahouh moments that took the broadcast commentators' breath away, one in either half, during Mumbai City FC's 2-0 win on Sunday against Odisha FC.

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Closed down by Odisha striker Diego Mauricio inside his own half, Jahouh was forced to back away towards the touchline on the left side, and that's when Mauricio's strike partner Daniel Lalhlimpuia tried to press Jahouh further. Unflustered, Jahouh turned his back on his marker, allowed the ball to roll off his feet, and just swept it away to find his nearest Mumbai teammate in one neat motion.

In the 82nd minute, a Mumbai move down the left ended in a cross that took a deflection and fell close to Jahouh, who had originally moved on to the edge of the box, but then was beginning to turn and start walking back. He instinctively anticipated the bounce ahead of him, turned and pinged a neat shot, that substitute goalkeeper Ravi Kumar was forced to tip away to safety.

Mumbai City, who had an indifferent start to this ISL season with a 1-0 defeat against NorthEast United, are suddenly humming like a finely tuned engine. And it's no surprise that this has coincided with the reinstatement of Jahouh in the Mumbai midfield, sent off as he was against NorthEast. Since Jahouh has returned, Mumbai have scored five without a reply, and looking every bit the pre-tournament favourites they promised to be.

The range of passing that Jahouh provides -- he had 81 successful passes, 16 more than the second best among all players, inside the 80-minute mark in Bambolim on Sunday -- and the embarrassment of riches in attack that Mumbai have this season will probably mean Jahouh's defensive contribution will slip under the radar from time to time. But he provided an early notice of that against Odisha -- Rowllin Borges played a feeble parallel ball to Jahouh inside the first 20 seconds of the start, that could have played Lalhlimpuia or Mauricio into play, but Jahouh held his nerve to kill off any danger.

Even before he took Lalhlimpuia for a personal dribbling masterclass in the first half, Jahouh had already played a delightful cross-field ball to Bipin Singh, and then split the defence with a superb lob for Cy Goddard. A midfielder like him takes anywhere between two to four opposition players out of the equation, whether with the ball or without, and he does it at walking pace and a poker face. His presence in midfield also allows Borges and Hugo Boumous to forge ahead and make Mumbai a numerical force, and he plays the role of the sweeper equally effectively when the full backs press ahead.

The only red flag, no pun intended, is his tackling, which may not carry malice all the time, but can sometimes be a bit delayed. That is what took him out of the equation on Mumbai's opening night this season. If Jahouh keeps his head, and allows those around him to take greater defensive responsibility, he will ensure the goals keep coming. And opposition players watch with mouths agape.

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