The seventh round of the I-League produced some very interesting results…
Before one of the most important games in Indian football, the Kolkata derby, set to be played in round eight, the seventh had a very important bearing in terms of results, momentum and psychological advantages. Additionally, DSK Shivajians produced a dominating performance against holders Bengaluru FC, who also showed their resilience to eke out a point in the dying moments of an exciting encounter. Minerva Punjab showed its fans they’re on the right track, defeating the ever-faltering Mumbai FC 2-0.
Here are the five things Khel Now learned from match-day seven:
1. Minerva showcase glimpse of the future in first winAmidst huge confusion and uncertainty, a club from Punjab had registered itself into the I-league on corporate entry. Minerva Punjab, in the first six league games, had been the punching bags for various teams as they drew two times and lost four of their last six games. The team looked to be getting better on the pitch, but wasn’t grinding out results. Facing a low-on-confidence Mumbai FC, Minerva Punjab showcased its ability with a comfortable 2-0 victory, their first ever in I-league history.
Mumbai FC, on the other hand, has lost five games on trot and looks abysmal on the pitch. Except for Steven Dias and Thoi Singh, and to a certain extent Karan Sawhney, all other players look uninspired and Santosh Kashyap would need to do a lot of soul-searching to get the passion back into his side.
2. Shillong Lajong will be a tough nut to crack at home
Shillong Lajong won another crucial encounter with a Dipanda Dicka goal, ensuring three crucial points at home against Churchill Brothers. The hosts were not clinical, but a moment of brilliance (and Churchill’s goalkeeper’s poor handling) helped them to four consecutive wins for the first time in I-league history.
The team is supremely confident at the back with Vishal Kaith providing them the much-needed confidence and calmness under the bar. The team has kept two clean sheets on the trot, rising to the fourth spot in the league table. The side has surely transformed the JLN Stadium, Shillong into their fort as they’ve seen good numbers coming in for the games.
3. Bengaluru FC’s slump more than just a drop in form
Easily one of the finest teams in India in recent times, Bengaluru FC has had a dream run in the last three years. Winning the I-league twice in three years since its inception and the Federation Cup to add to it, the team did not stop on national boundaries and reached the finals of the AFC Cup last year, only to be defeated by Air Force XI.
DSK Shivajians were easily the better team against the Blues
The team, this season, has looked a shadow of itself. With more experienced campaigners in the form of Harmanjot Singh Khabra and Lenny Rodrigues signed to add to the squad, the team looks to have changed its ideology of honing youngsters and making them first-team regulars. After three victories in the I-league, Bengaluru had slumped to three consecutive defeats and eked out a last minute 2-2 draw against the better looking DSK Shivajians.
This cannot just be a drop in form for the Blues, as the team looks bereft of ideas on the pitch. Whatever be the reason, Spaniard coach Albert Roca needs to look into his team and set things right for the defending champions sooner than later.
4. East Bengal primed for Derby success
The Reds-and-Golds have looked daunting in parts this season, and one such part was at display against Chennai City FC. After a faltering first half, the Kolkata giants played an attacking second half and scored three goals to garner another three points to consolidate at the top of the table.
With the Kolkata derby set to take place in the eighth-round, East Bengal fans will be happy with all three of their foreign stars blazing fire on the pitch. Ivan Bukenya has been one of the defenders of the league this season and has marshaled the EB backline with pure domination. Wedson Anselme and Willis Plaza look to be linking-up good with growing time, and its Christmas for the EB fans as both players have been amidst goals and assists in the league.
5. Mohun Bagan show character of champions in victory over Aizawl FC
The Mariners have been one of the best sides this season, if not the best already. Sanjoy Sen’s men have looked to be convincing on the ball and confident at the back. In the last game against Aizawl FC, the Green-and-Maroons dominated to win 3-2 against the fighting visitors at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium.
Aizawl FC came from behind twice, with Jayesh Rane playing a key role in both the goals. Rane scored the first goal and assisted the second one with a curling corner. The home side showed tremendous character to keep their nerves in control and garner the three points. With the Kolkata derby to be played next week, it will be interesting to see Mariners’ attitude towards the game. A lot of hype and drama has already taken place before the derby.