Long lobbing: throw-ins become an effective tool to score goals in ISL
It’s remarkable how throw-ins in the Indian Super League (ISL) are an outright attacking option rather than just a tool to restart a game.
A good example is Bengaluru’s equalizer against Jamshedpur on Saturday, which was remarkable in more ways than one. First, for Parag Shrivas’ long throw: from the touchline on the right, the defender launched a massive throw that traveled almost 20 yards to find the head of teammate Pratik Chaudhari in a crowded box that had seven players in it. Jamshedpur, whose keeper.
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Equally stunning was Sunil Chhetri’s run, which almost went unnoticed from Jamshedpur’s perspective. The league’s all-time top scorer, with 49 goals, was not even in the picture when Shrivas took the throw-in. Chhetri, instead, was positioned outside the penalty area and, as the ball was in full flight, true to his poaching instincts, he sprinted towards the goal area. So by the time Chaudhari got a light knock on the ball, which then ricocheted off Bruno Ramires, Chhetri was present in the right position to exploit it, setting the stage for Bangalore’s 3-1 win, which saw them win. propelled to third. position on the board.
Everything about the move – from the long throw to the underhand Chhetri run to the flick and ultimately the finish – made the move feel like a well-rehearsed training ground routine. And that underlines how crucial throw-ins are in the ISL in terms of creating scoring opportunities.
Of course, it would be naive to reduce long throws to just an ISL phenomenon. “Strategy” has been around for a long time, especially in Indian football, which has produced true long-range maestros, who have often been selected into the squad largely for this attribute.
In the mid-2000s, then Air India manager Bimal Ghosh, who identified and honed many talented players during his time with the budget Mumbai club, signed a defender, Uttam Singh, around which many of his team’s attacks were designed. Projectiles thrown by Uttam inside the box, which caused panic in rival defenses and led Ghosh to often claim he was the first Indian to use throw-ins as a free-kick.
This, of course, is a very debatable claim, as there were many players before Uttam who were prolific when it came to power throws from the touchline. Former India defender Naushad Moosa, who is now Bengaluru’s assistant coach, made several important contributions with his huge shots; most notably in the 1997 South Asian Football Championship final in Kathmandu, when the Maldives were unable to cope with Moosa’s throws, leading to two goals in a 5–1 win.
Another former India international and Salgaocar star, Bruno Coutinho, was also renowned for his long throws. In Mohun Bagan’s final season in the I-League, defender Dhanachandra Singh made several assists to his name, including one in the bitter cold of Srinagar when Bagan beat 2-0. Dhanachandra, before that, had been influential with his throws in Chennaiyin’s winning seasons in the ISL.
And then, of course, there was the intriguing case of Yumnam Singh, who was named by the Guardian in 2020 as one of 60 next-gen footballers to watch. Yumnam, who plays for Punjab FC in the I-League, can hardly be ranked as a one-in-a-generation talent, but if there’s one thing he’s renowned for, it’s long throws.
So while India has a long and interesting history of producing players who have strong arms and know how to flex them, it’s fascinating to see how what was once a fringe talent has become almost mainstream in the ISL.
Long throws may not be aesthetically pleasing to watch, but they have surely been an effective goal-scoring option, almost as important as a corner kick, which teams spend ample time practicing on .
There have been many throw-ins that have led to goals this season. Before Shrivas’ effort, Sahal Abdul Samad of Kerala Blasters made one of the long throws in his team’s game against Hyderabad which was picked up by Alvaro Vazquez.
At the start of the season, Chennaiyin playmaker Anirudh Thapa kicked a ball from the touchline inside the box which was hammered by Vladimir Koman and in another case East Bengal’s Raju Gaikwad – a another former Air India man who started under Ghosh and developed a penchant for long throws – threw one against Odisha, leading to the first goal in a 10-goal thriller.
Dhanachandra, as mentioned earlier, used the tactic well during his time in Chennaiyin while John Arne Riise also terrorized opposition defenses with his powerful throws during his time in ISL. So it’s not a trend exclusive to the current season, but Hyderabad’s Spanish coach Manolo Marquez looked surprised when asked about it earlier in the season.
“I told my players the other day that I was surprised by two things in the Indian Super League,” Marquez said.
“One is the number of throw-ins because the throw-in of players like Raju, (NorthEast United) Mashoor (Shereef) and Tondonba (Singh, also of NorthEast United) is not normal, and the other thing is throw-in in India is long. Normally the players would give it away, but they can direct the ball directly here.
It may not be normal. But in the ISL, throw-ins have certainly proven to be more than just a method to restart the game.