All five games in Round 9 ended in draws…

As the ninth round 9 of the I-League concluded last night, Indian football fans experienced something out of the ordinary among the performances. The league standings remained as it was after the previous round as all the matches were drawn and no wins were registered. With such a game week done and dusted, Khel now picks five of the most important things that have been evident with the clubs in the recently-concluded round.

1. Week of comebacks

I-League fanatics experienced an interesting series of events in the round 9 this week as the majority of the top teams came from the behind to deny their under-dogs opposition three points against them. Dark horses Aizawl FC took the lead in the 40th minute as Vanlalremdika headed the ball into the Bengaluru FC net but failed to retain their lead as the Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri equalized for the Blues in the dying minutes of the first half.

Table toppers East Bengal were stunned against a comparatively young Lajong side who scored the first goal of the match in the 20th minute but also failed to win the game as East Bengal’s star striker Willis Plaza scored the equalized in the 45th minutes, scoring the final goal of the game.

A day before all this action, Goanese side Churchill Brothers had opened scoring against Chennai City FC in the 63rd minutes but the Chennai-based club retaliated quickly, equalizing the score in less than three minutes.

2. Bengaluru FC highly dependent on captain Sunil Chhetri

Defending champions Bengaluru FC were stunned against Aizawl FC at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium as the highlanders dominated the game in the first half. Aizawl FC, who has proved their home ground to be a fortress this season, have played four home games in the I-League this year before facing the defending champions on Wednesday, winning all four games.

However, their winning run at home came to an end when Albert Roca’s men pulled up their socks in the second half, following the first half equalizer from Sunil Chhetri and denied Khalid Jamil’s men to score again. After a rather dull display in the first half, the Blues performed exceptionally in the second half, dominating the last 45 minutes easily spearheaded by Sunil Chhetri, the best player on the pitch in a blue jersey.

3. Every team played a safe game and didn’t take enough risks

A week without a single win was evident of an out-of-the-box strategy for the I-League sides. With several fitness issues amongst their midst, all the teams played cautiously in this round reducing the chances of any more injuries within themselves. A certain mandatory on-the-line performance, a rather specialty for the Indian top-flight sides, was missing from their performances this round which led them to play a safe-and-dull game, drawing all the matches.

4. The gameplay was disastrous due to congestion of matches

As the I-League sides picked up several injuries already in the recent edition of the I-League this year, one might question the reason behind such schedule. League rounds are usually seperated by at least three days all over the world, but the I-league resumed after just a two-day break, giving no team enough time to sit and assess the situation.

In such a scenario, no coach can adjust his team and give them a similar strategy, looking either out-of-ideas or not being sure of the need of the hour. With all the journey around the country and playing full 90 minutes several times in a week, it is certain that this schedule has brought fatigue among the players which restricted them to perform to their potential and imminent disastrous gameplays were delivered.

5. Coaches should be a little more pro-active

One thing which certainly stood out this week was the lack of pro-activeness of the coaches. Only Khalid Jamil’s Aizawl FC looked prepared for their visitors Bengaluru FC. All other teams were lacking a clear thought-process, which showed their lack of idea and intent on the pitch. Coaches get the schedule at the beginning of the league and should know how to rotate and use their squad depth to perfection.

The coaches must prepare their sides mentally before high-tempo games and intense weeks. The training should also change with just warm-ups and enough time must be given to recuperate from niggles and minor muscle pulls and stretches. The intensity of the training should be very minimalised and players’ should only be given a tactical insight into the next game.

On the contrary, most of the people looked tired and a lackadaisical approach was clear on the pitch, which was one of the key reasons for the poor and boring results.