It was a scintillating week in the competition which saw several top drawer performances.
The I-League took a few wild turns in its first week into the new year, with the title race being split wide open with a couple of mildly surprising results. East Bengal were dethroned off the top of the table by arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, who continue their impressive surge following a poor start to the season.
Punjab FC maintained their grip in the top four, while Churchill Brothers retained their reputation as the league’s top-scorers so far. While a few closely contested games took place in the chilly winter around the country, a few players came up with excellent match-winning performances.
Whether or not directly influencing their sides’ success, these players definitely caught the fans’ eye with their diligent work and made sure they tasted sweet joy. So here’s Khel Now’s I-League Team of the Week 4 –
Goalkeeper: Lalremruata (Aizawl FC)
Lalremruata has been Aizawl FC’s guardian angel so far this season, pulling off finger-tip saves to deny any trouble in their evolution under Stanley Rozario. Well, he kept up his triumphant attitude and helped his side pull off an unlikely point from the daunting Gokulam Kerala.
Facing up against the league’s very best attackers, Lalremruata has been fearless with his work, making a series of brilliant saves. He also made an excellent penalty save off Marcus Joseph and despite conceding late, his vital blocks helped Rozario’s side steal a crucial point to return home with an upbeat attitude.
I-League 2019-20: Team of the Week 4
Right-Back: Abhishek Das (TRAU FC)
Now operating under new colours in the I-League, Abhishek Das made good use of his experience against Punjab FC, putting in a formidable performance against the former champions. The right-back was agile as ever on the flanks, doing a good job keeping the dangerous Sergio Barboza Jr. quiet on his side.
Das was also a persistent figure lodging forward, but was unable to see his inviting crosses rewarded. Regardless, the former Gokulam Kerala man put in another hard-working effort, coming up with timely challenges to nullify Punjab’s attacking threat.
Centre-Back: Radanfah Abu-Bakr (Churchill Brothers)
As he keeps adapting himself to I-League’s style, Radanfah Abu-Bakr keeps on developing himself into an expert buy for Churchill Brothers. The Trinidad and Tobago centre-back is using his intimidating presence to good use, bullying strikers as he pleases.
He scored his second goal of the season with a strike against Arrows and after unfortunately losing that, the 32 year-old made sure his side got a clean sheet against East Bengal. Abu-Bakr did pretty well to nullify Marcos de la Espada’s threat, being firm with his challenges and helping the Red Machines to a big win against fellow title contenders.
Centre-Back: Teah Dennis (Punjab FC)
Punjab FC’s smart recruitment, Teah Dennis, is the reason they’re challenging for a top spot in the I-League this season. The towering centre-back has definitely added more steel to their leaky defence. Dennis continued his impressive work against TRAU FC, putting in a strong shift against the unpredictable Princewill Emeka.
The Liberian was dominant in the air and made a few crunching challenges to keep his opponents’ threat mellowed down. Dennis earned his side their second clean sheet of the season, while also helping them to a valuable point in a difficult environment.
Left-Back: Dhanachandra Singh (Mohun Bagan)
Playing in subzero levels, Mohun Bagan needed a proper leader to make sure the players didn’t get a case of cold feet. When they needed him the most, Dhanachandra Singh emerged to turn back the years. The 32-year-old started his first league game for the Mariners, but didn’t seem to be caught in cobwebs at all.
He helped nullify Real Kashmir’s threat down his flank, being a proactive figure clearing danger and earning a clean-sheet. Dhanachandra also made an effective attacking contribution, as his long throw caused chaos for Joseba Beitia’s strike.
Right-Wing: Vikram Pratap Singh (Indian Arrows)
Vikram Pratap Singh’s encouraging development at Indian Arrows continues getting brighter. He has put on a few menacing performances against intimidating oppositions in the I-League in last few weeks. Singh troubled Churchill Brothers’ defenders with his tireless pressing and it proved fruitful when he forced a goalkeeper error for the winner.
Singh also scored his second of the season in style against NEROCA FC, meeting a corner with a brilliant near-post flick to prove his goal-scoring instincts and gain a point for his side.
Centre-Midfield: Joseba Beitia (Mohun Bagan)
Joseba Beitia is quickly placing himself as the most influential player for Mohun Bagan, pulling the strings effectively from midfield to mirror Kibu Vicuna’s philosophy into the team. The Spaniard was not at all harried by the winter’s chill at Real Kashmir, operating with his usual flair.
But Beitia’s decisive moment came in the second half, when his well-timed volley from close range helped the Mariners take the lead. He also beautifully helped set-up the second goal, with his composed distribution and efficient work pegging the hosts down.
Centre-Midfield: Givson Singh (Indian Arrows)
Givson Singh seems determined to become Indian Arrows’ breakthrough youngster this season, giving back-to-back impressive performances against Churchill Brothers and NEROCA FC. The bright spark of India’s U-16 side a few years ago, Givson is now dictating the tempo for the young Arrows brilliantly and continued doing so against Churchill.
He worked extremely hard and finished off a sweet move to score against the Red Machines, kick-starting the stunning comeback. Givson retained his intelligent work against NEROCA, assisting Vikram Pratap’s equalizer as well to prove how much a complete midfielder he is.
Left-Wing: Nongdamba Naorem (Mohun Bagan)
Nongdamba Naorem seems to be constantly improving under Kibu Vicuna and vindicated his evolution by using his electric skill to good use against Real Kashmir. Naorem was constantly a menace with his tricky movement and dribbles through the left, going past players as and when he wanted.
However, more importantly, he performed the final delivery on the day, finishing off a well-worked move superbly with a powerful strike to seal the three points for the Mariners. If he can maintain this thunderous momentum, bigger and better things are in store for the promising youngster.
Centre-Forward: Abdoulaye Kanoute (Aizawl FC)
Aizawl’s newest foreign export introduced himself in style, much to the dismay of Gokulam Kerala. Kanoute looked to be well-synced with his side’s young domestic stars, showcasing impressive movement in the final third.
However, his shining moment came in the first half when he controlled a long ball perfectly to score a stunning volley, silencing the Kerala crowd. Kanoute’s impeccable strike helped a 10-man Aizawl side gain an important point, but more importantly, proved that their new No. 9 is a terror inside the penalty area.
Centre-Forward: Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers)
Willis Plaza just loves scoring against Kolkata sides and after scoring a brace earlier this season against Mohun Bagan, he continued his impressive work against former employers East Bengal. The Trinidad and Tobago striker showcased prime hunger for a goal, working extremely hard to throttle the Red Machines forward and getting into all the right positions.
He missed quite a few promising chances, but his undying thirst got him a goal in the dying minutes when he outjumped a few defenders to emphatically head in the winner. The Churchill captain won another game for his side, moving them to 2nd place in the league.
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