The recently-concluded week in the league saw some memorable displays from the players involved.
The second week of the I-League saw some teams starting to settle in, as some were still in search of momentum. It was an action-packed week, with changing equations in the points table.
The Kolkata clubs have made a strong comeback with dominant wins, proving that they are very much in the title race. Meanwhile, Punjab FC and Aizawl FC have also shown resilience whereas the defending champions, Chennai City FC, languish in the bottom half of the table. It has also been a tough week for newly promoted TRAU FC and the young Indian Arrows side.
Here are Khel Now’s talking points from the second week of I-League action:
5. Have injuries been the main hindrance for Akbar Nawas’ men?
The reigning champions, Chennai City, have had some early stutters this season, as they lost 1-3 away from home against Punjab FC. With multiple players out injured and Pedro Manzi not looking at his best, the southerners look a shadow of their former selves.
Chennai City have shown a lack of experience on all fronts with Nawas putting his trust in local talents. Also, with Sandro Rodriguez and Adolfo Miranda out injured, the onus is on Katsumi Yusa to control the midfield. Injuries have evidently taken a toll on the champions and though it is still early days, Nawas’ men need to buck up their ideas soon.
4. Is Fran Gonzalez’s indomitable attitude being the buoyant force for Mohun Bagan ?
The Mariners were languishing in the bottom half of the table after an away draw against Aizawl FC and a thumping defeat against Churchill Brothers at home. But, Kibu Vicuna’s men kept believing in their abilities and came back with a dominant 4-0 win over TRAU FC. The win eased the air for the Kolkata outfit, as there was a lot of negativity around.
Fran Gonzalez scored a brace in the game, as his first goal early in the match allowed the Mariners to dictate terms. Gonzalez is that sort of player who can pull up the spirits of the whole team with his individual performance. He has that leadership quality in him and his knack of scoring goals has bailed out Mohun Bagan for the time being as they still lack a proper goalscorer up front.
3. Has Alejandro Menendez Garcia’s trust In Marcos de La Espada finally paid dividends for East Bengal?
Ever since Marcos Jimenez de la Espada landed in Kolkata, he has had to go through heavy criticism. From comparisons with their former striker Enrique Esqueda to his inability to convert chances in the penalty box. He had a torrid time in the handful of the Calcutta Football League matches he featured in.
While the fans protested against his selection, Menendez trusted the 34-year-old forward. He allowed him game-time to acclimatize to Indian conditions and once the former Kitchee FC man was settled, he started proving his mettle. Espada had a great outing against NEROCA FC, but he continued his form against TRAU and scored a great header to hand East Bengal the lead. He has three goals from four matches now and with time he has won over the supporters with his consistent performances.
2. Can the local players of Aizawl FC inspire them TO a top-half finish this season?
Aizawl FC have beaten the odds time and again and that is why they are known as the “People’s Club.” Once again the Reds have started brightly, overcoming several difficulties. Stanley Rozario has shown immense courage by promoting local talents and the youngsters have repaid his faith with some fine performances.
After a draw against Mohun Bagan in their opener, the Reds faltered against NEROCA, but came back strongly against the Indian Arrows. Players like Paul Ramfangzauva, Joe Zoherliana and Isak Vanlalruatfela have shown maturity way beyond their age. This strong core of local players are pushing Aizawl ahead in the league this season.
1. Can Punjab FC’s route-one attacking football make them potential title contenders?
Punjab FC have come back really well after the 0-3 drubbing against Churchill Brothers in their first match of the I-League 2019-20 season. Yan Law’s men have show maturity and character in their next few matches. The Warriors are a great side with their forward line being the strongest department, especially with players like Sergio Barboza, Dipanda Dicka, Jay Hart alongside Indian players like Bali Gagandeep and Girik Khosla.
Considering their aerial prowess in attack, Law’s men have often opted for route-one football, with the likes of Cavin Lobo and Sanju Pradhan bombarding the opposition’s box with numerous crosses. This strategy has worked well so far and considering the depth in their side it looks like a good ploy which suits the strengths of the players.