Several new faces pitch in after their excellent performances last week.
The I-League was host to a string of very tightly contested games last week, with multiple thrilling stalemates being played out among top-five contenders. As Mohun Bagan march onto their league title, which they can officially clinch after winning their next three games, those behind them haven’t really done much to pile any pressure on them.
Every side in the top half of the table apart from the Mariners dropped points but were part of some thrilling encounters filled with comebacks, late goals and value for entertainment. A few usual suspects continued their brilliant run this season, while a few underrated gems shone through for their sides with match-winning performances.
Here is Khel Now’s I-League team of the week 11 –
Goalkeeper: Nauzet Santana Garcia (Chennai City FC)
Nauzet Garcia has been pretty solid all season saving Chennai City FC from doom, but really turned up his swagger against the young Indian Arrows side last week. As the young guns maintained their fearless attacking approach, the Spaniard remained a brick wall between the two posts, making a string of superb reflex stops to deny them.
He ensured that Chennai never fell behind and eventually wrapped up a comfortable win with a clean-sheet for himself. Garcia’s excellent work, however, wasn’t ignored as he picked up the Man of the Match award too.
Right-Back: Nirmal Chhetri (Punjab FC)
As Punjab FC were forced to defend to their very best ability against a relentless Gokulam Kerala side, Nirmal Chhetri was up to the task to frustrate the hosts. The former East Bengal man remained a sturdy figure down the right throughout the game, putting in timely challenges to thwart whatever the Malabarians tried to create through his side. The Punjab FC captain marshalled his backline really well to maintain their strength under intense situations and ensured Punjab took away a point from the difficult fixture.
Centre-Back: Sriram B (Chennai City FC)
Chennai City FC were incidentally the only side to maintain a clean-sheet in the last set of games and reason for that is they controlled proceedings really well. Sriram Boopathi put in a compelling performance defending them from danger, sniffing away and shutting out the young Indian Arrows players throughout. He also distributed possession really well, ensuring that his side maintained the lion’s share of possession and also made sure the Arrows players couldn’t gain confidence to trouble his side.
Centre-Back: Robert Primus (Churchill Brothers)
Robert Primus has now had a few memorable outings against Kolkata clubs and after being dominant against Mohun Bagan earlier this season, he continued his solid work against East Bengal. The 29 year-old dealt with East Bengal’s fast-pace attacking style really well, neutralizing Marcos de la Espada’s threat by matching his physicality really well.
Primus was efficient in making crucial clearances and denying the hosts much room to threaten with. He almost got the job done for the Red Machines but a poor penalty conceded in the dying minutes denied him a deserved clean-sheet.
Left-Back: Abhash Thapa (East Bengal)
Abhash Thapa’s taken time to adapt into the pressure at East Bengal, but continued showing signs of improvement against Churchill Brothers. The former Real Kashmir man put in a tireless shift down the left, always making himself available with his marauding runs down the left. He also put in a disciplined shift defensively, making crucial challenges to regain possession for his side. Thapa also played a part in earning the penalty, putting in an inviting ball for Kromah, who was fouled for the spot-kick.
Right Centre-Midfield: Quan Gomes (Churchill Brothers)
Churchill Brothers had to work hard to outwork East Bengal throughout the game and the one who perhaps worked the hardest was Quan Gomes. The midfielder was all over the place for the Red Machines, putting in a tireless shift in covering a lot of ground for his side. He regained possession with impressive tackles, distributed the ball forward really well and maintained control for his side. Gomes’ efficient performance was rewarded as he won the man-of-the-match award for his hard work.
Centre-Midfield: Joseba Beitia (Mohun Bagan)
Another day, another Joseba Beitia masterclass. This is becoming quite a routine for the Mohun Bagan talisman who was again at the heart of their brilliance in a thumping win over TRAU FC. Beitia’s set-pieces were dangerous as ever, but he pulled something special out of his locker by superbly curling a shot into goal to score his personal best strike of the campaign.
The Spaniard was irresistible with his incisive passes and maintained utmost control till the very end, gaining another win for the Mariners and a deserved man-of-the-match trophy for himself.
Left Centre-Midfield: Nathaniel Garcia (Gokulam Kerala)
Nathaniel Garcia turned up the heat for Gokulam Kerala playing in front of a packed crowd at the EMS Corporation Stadium against Punjab FC. Garcia showcased his technical skill in stunning fashion, making terrific incisive passes to open things up and adding a lot of flair in midfield.
He ended up salvaging a point with his impressive striker after the hour mark to finally break the sturdy Punjab FC backline. Garcia couldn’t complete the comeback for the Malabarians, but his wonderful work earned him the man-of-the-match award.
Right-Wing: VP Suhair (Mohun Bagan)
VP Suhair continues his impressive rise in performance-levels in recent weeks as he put in another hard-working shift against TRAU FC. Suhair’s unpredictable movement kept the hosts on their toes, as he shifted around everywhere to create space for his team-mates to penetrate through. Suhair also got an assist to his name, when his clever one-two with Beitia was finished off by the Spaniard in style. His off-the-ball movement and link-up play tormented TRAU throughout, ensuring the Mariners were in the driving seat through-out.
Left-Back: Rochharzela (Aizawl FC)
Rochharzela was undaunted by the intimidating nature of the TRC Ground in Kashmir when Aizawl travelled to face Real Kashmir in the Valley. Despite falling to a 0-2 loss and a defeat looking inevitable in the dying stages, the youngster decided to take control in orchestrating a comeback. He first scored a penalty with conviction and spirited his side with his electric vibe. Rochharzela then collected a long-ball perfectly before blasting it into the net, completing his brace and rescuing a crucial point to boost Aizawl’s survival chances in the I-League.
Striker: Papa Babacar Diawara (Mohun Bagan)
Papa Babacar Diawara’s goal-scoring streak continued at TRAU FC when he netted his 8th of the season to inspire Mohun Bagan to another win. The former Sevilla man tormented TRAU with his movement around the final third and was cleverly found by Komron Tursunov before moving past defenders and swirling a shot into the bottom corner. He sealed the Mariners a win with that strike, putting in another efficient performance to ensure their momentum remains high as the I-League trophy comes closer to their grasp.