I-League 2023-24: New guns will battle out stalwarts in Round 4
Rajasthan United are yet to open their account
How much pressure is too much? It’s a question Sreenidi Deccan will be pondering in the aftermath of their sobering crash back to earth via a loss against Aizawl FC. That one single game has the potential of opening up what seems like a processional league, and also provided what may well turn out to be the goal of the season.
Trust Aizawl to do all of that. The People’s Club have always made underdogs look cool and ensured that the idea of destroying favourites remains trendy. A mere look at the stats does not do justice to what was undoubtedly the pick of the Round 3 fixtures.
Sreenidi went into the fixture having scored eight in two, not so much demolishing opponents but doing so with one hand on the till and another perched on the window. Bawlte Rohmingthanga had other ideas, spotting a goalkeeper off his line, and trusting his skills enough to score from over fifty yards. The magic of the I-League endures.
And it will continue to do so, into another week, where Sreenidi will be keen to make amends in their first game away from home. They travel to Shillong to face Lajong, a team who have had a strange start, rocking Mohammedan Sporting to the core, and scaring them into a draw, but then meekly surrendering a deserved lead, as well as three points in front of a capacity crowd at home to NEROCA.
It takes time to build legacies and even confidence. There is perhaps no better example of this right now than Mohammedan Sporting, a team who with the weight of legacy on their shoulders — and the quality in the side to justify it — are joint-top with Gokulam Kerala.
They will travel to new entrants Delhi FC, and hope to execute a swift, simple tactical plan that will keep them atop the table. Delhi for their part have just come out of a thriller against Rajasthan United, and while the neutral may have walked away pleased, within the club there must be consternation about how easily a comfortable lead was shipped away.
Rajasthan United are yet to bring home a point, and their three losses have been defined by poor defence, a door the coaching staff will be keen to shut swiftly when they take on Churchill Brothers at their first home game for the season. This fixture last season, was headlined by Martin Chaves’ switch of sides, and yet the Uruguayan did not need to feature as Churchill thrashed Rajasthan 4-0 in a result that sparked a ruinous run of form for RUFC that saw them end closer to the foot of the table than the top.
Chaves has been exceptional in Churchill’s game so far this season, without actually making any direct impact on proceedings. His ability on the ball always draws defenders and therefore frees up his teammates to create trouble off it. It was evident in the team’s brilliant win over Real Kashmir in Srinagar, a late rally by the home side notwithstanding.
Real Kashmir FC will travel for the first time this season, taking on a gritty and physically tough Namdhari FC, a side who have unsurprisingly, been hard to break down. TRAU and Gokulam clash in a round 4 game that may well separate the contenders from the pretenders for the season.
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