More exciting action was in store in the second round of matches.
The I-League 2020-21 action has continued to its second Gameweek with teams pulling up their socks and yet none of them managing to win two games on the trot. It is a testament to how tightly contested the league is this season.
Despite starting strongly, Churchill Brothers played out a drab draw against Mohammedan Sporting Club, while Gokulam Kerala’s dramatic comeback win over RoundGlass Punjab was the highlight of the round. Real Kashmir and Sudeva Delhi got off the mark with wins over Chennai City and Indian Arrows, while the intense Imphal Derby ended in a 1-1 draw.
Here are the hits and misses from I-League Gameweek 2:
5. Foreigners to the fore for Gokulam Kerala FC
Gokulam Kerala started their season on a disappointing note against Chennai City FC and head coach Vincenzo Annesse could not let his men go down again against RG Punjab. However, the Malabarians were taken aback by Chencho Gyeltshen’s early brace. But, a minute later Philipp Adjah pulled one back and with the chances Gokulam were creating it looked like the game was still wide open.
While RG Punjab added another one through Rupert Nongrum and went 3-1 ahead at the break, Gokulam came back in the second half with a different aura. Both Dennis Antwi and Adjah combined to expose the inexperienced Punjab backline. Antwi even earned a penalty which was saved by Kiran Chemchong. However, a late surge from the Malabarians saw them take the lead with an own-goal by Anwar Ali.
While Gokualm Kerala won the match 4-3, it was a great display of tenacity and zeal. The foreign duo upfront showed terrific grit and character to create chances and even though they missed a few, they finally found the back of the net. If they continue this fight they can very well be one of the title favourites this season.
4. Sudeva Delhi off the mark in I-League
The I-League 2020-21 debutants did not have a great start to their journey as they lost to Mohammedan SC in the first match. But, they came back strong to tame Indian Arrows 3-0 and register their first-ever win in the league. Chencho Dorji’s men dominated proceedings right from the start as players like Kean Lewis, Pintu Mahata, Mahesh Singh all showcased their skills against their inexperienced counterparts.
The Delhi-based outfit needed this win and they have done just that. Sudeva played with great authority throughout the game, forced the Arrows to make mistakes and made sure they capitalized on them. The whole team looked in sync, especially forwards Lewis and Mahesh. The debutants can be a thorn in the flesh for many teams this season.
3. Mohammedan Sporting Vs Churchill Brothers: Clash between two title contenders?
Both Mohammedan Sporting and Churchill Brothers are seen as favourites for the season. With both clubs winning their season opener the clash between them became more intense. However, the match was a cagey affair with both teams cancelling out each other. While the Red Machines were continuously knocking on the door in search of the goal, the Blacks Panthers were resolute in defence. Both teams created chances, but were wasteful in front of goal.
Despite the goalless draw, there were moments in the game for both sides to take control and secure the three points, but in the end there was not much to separate them.
2. Dipanda Dicka key to Snow Leopards success?
Cameroonian forward, Dipanda Dicka has been a journeyman in Indian football. After stints with Shillong Lajong, Mohammedan SC, Mohun Bagan and Minerva Punjab, the 31-year old is now plying his trade for Real Kashmir this season. Dicka is a proven goalscorer in the I-League and has been the top scorer three times in the last four seasons. So, hopes are high from the striker and he has already started firing for the Snow Leopards.
Dicka opened the scoring for Real Kashmir in their second match against Chennai, City as he combined with Lukam Adeyemi in the penalty area to break the deadlock. It was not only the goal, the 31-year old later came up with an inch-perfect ball to assist Lalrindika Ralte for the second. Dicka will play a pivotal role in the Snow Leopards’ success this season and David Robertson will hope that this is just the first of many more to come.
1. Who will be the best team from the Northeast?
It has been a norm of the I-League to unearth young talents from the Northeast region where football has been a staple for a long time. Teams from this part of the country have shown their credentials with Aizawl FC winning the I-League back in 2017. Others like NEROCA and Lajong have also proven their mettle. Now, with the Kolkata giants gone, the onus has fallen on the two teams from Manipur, NEROCA and TRAU to keep the excitement of the Imphal Derby alive in the I-League.
The Imphal Derby has always been a witness to great support from the locals. Though the ambience at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium was missed due to unavoidable circumstances, the football on display was not compromised. Both sides shared the spoils after an intense game. Currently, all the three teams from the Northeast have not had a great start, but TRAU look like a team that can turn a few heads, while the other two are still settling into a new season.