The Mizoram-based club stunned title contenders Gokulam Kerala last week with a 2-0 win.
The I-League 2020-21 season is in full swing as every passing matchday comes up with new surprises. A lot of teams which were slow to get off the mark have now jumped right back into the mix as the league gradually picks up pace.
It has been a fine start for Churchill Brothers and the win against RoundGlass Punjab proves that the Red Machines are a force to reckon with. Mohammedan SC and TRAU on the other hand, shared the spoils in a game of two halves with both teams having plenty of issues to resolve. Real Kashmir also could only manage a draw against Sudeva Delhi whereas NEROCA got their first full three points with a dominating win over the Indian Arrows. The biggest upset came from Aizawl FC who defeated Gokulam Kerala to get back in the mix after an early loss.
Therefore, here are the primary highlights from Gameweek 3 of I-League 2021:
5. Can Churchill Brothers sustain early momentum?
It has been a decent start to the season for the Churchill Brothers. The Red Machines have made a clear statement with their style of play that they are here to win the I-League title. Head coach Santiago Varela looks like he has struck the right chords among the talented local and experienced foreign players. The Red Machines look like a very fluid attacking system with players like Bryce Miranda and Clencio Pinto breaking into the scene and complementing the foreign attackers in Clayvin Zuniga and Luka Majcen.
While the attack looks very fluid, the defence has been very compact and credit goes to experienced foreign leaders in Bazie Armand and Hamza Kheir. Armand has added the much needed steel in midfield while Kheir marshals the defence. All in all, Varela’s men look like a very cohesive and well-knit unit and if they become more clinical in front of goal, then they can be the team to beat this season.
4. Lack of chance creation a major concern for Real Kashmir FC?
Considered as one of the best teams ahead of the season on paper, Real Kashmir FC have had a decent start. Indeed, they are still unbeaten till now and David Robertson has his own philosophy grinding out results, but the chinks in their armour are certainly getting exposed. In their last match against Sudeva, the whole defensive organization of the Snow Leopards was all over the place as Chencho Dorji’s side kept on creating and squandering chances in the first half.
It is given that Robertson’s pragmatic approach won’t change against a certain opponent in the league, but the fact that the Snow Leopards were devoid of chances throughout the game is a huge cause of concern. If Sudeva had not squandered so many chances or rather if they have had an experienced forward with a calming presence in front of goal, the Delhi-based outfit would have won with a decent scoreline.
The Snow Leopards and their coach need to reflect on certain areas after this match. Despite having two foreign strikers in Dipanda Dicka and Lukman Adefemi, it was the defender Mason Robertson who came to their rescue and salvage a point.
3. Tougher tests lie ahead for Mohammedan SC
Ahead of the season, the Black Panthers were considered as one of the stronger teams this season as some even believed that they can challenge for the title. However, after three games, Mohammedan SC albeit being unbeaten have not lived up to their lofty standards. In their last game against TRAU, they were so off from the start that they simply gave the lead away in the first couple of minutes.
Their defensive organization has been all over the place especially in the first half. Some casual unforced errors led TRAU to establish a 2-0 lead at the break. Although they came back in the second half to salvage a draw, they still do not look ready for the tougher tests in their journey ahead. Even some of their foreign picks are yet to yield rewards. Forward Raphael Ownrebe has the tenacity to trouble the defenders, but he is yet to find his feet in the I-League. On the other hand, midfielder Mohammed Fatau is out for a considerable amount of time with injury. The Black Panthers will have to sort their issues out quickly if they want to be in the championship mix this season.
2. Is Yan Law the right man for Aizawl FC?
It was a dull start for Aizawl FC as they lost their first match against RG Punjab FC and were then dealt with another setback of parting ways with their head coach Standly Rozario. Amidst the uncertainty, they appointed former Minerva Punjab and Mohammedan Sporting tactician Yan Law at the helm. With his arrival, the tables have turned as they came out roaring with a 2-0 win over Gokulam Kerala FC.
Aizawl had a great start and it looked like they were fearless in their approach and wanted to take the challenge head-on. They created several chances and finally scored from a penalty and headed into the break with a slender lead. While the second half was more about soaking in the pressure, the youngsters showed character and withered the storm and then capitalized on their chances which came their way. All in all, they looked like a well-oiled unit. The youngsters have the license to play attacking football, something which this team needs. Having worked in youth football for a long time, Law understands the mindset of young players and therefore, he looks to be the right man to lead the former champions.
1. How far can NEROCA FC go this season?
There is still a long way to go in the I-League 2020-21 season and despite starting with a draw in the Imphal Derby, NEROCA are off the blocks after the decimation of Indian Arrows 4-0. The arrival of Nathaniel and Judah Garcia has definitely added more zing to their attack as they look more like a cohesive unit during the attacking buildups. The youngsters in the team needed some experienced heads among their ranks and Nathaniel Garcia looks to be the man doing that job for Gift Raikhan.
Out of the four goals that the Orange Army scored, the foreigners were involved in three of them which again proves how much they rely on them on either end of the pitch. Now it is time for their young prospects to rub shoulders with these foreigners and learn a few things that will help them in their development and will also push NEROCA forward in the league this season.