Its the festive season and some teams are rolling in the good times by punching above their weight in both of India’s top leagues.
Winter has well and truly arrived in India and things have started to spice up in the Indian Super League and the I-League, which both had their share of twists and turns this week. The ISL saw new-entrants Bengaluru FC have a topsy-turvy week after they thrashed FC Pune City away from home, but lost to Chennaiyin FC later on. The league is looking quite close at the moment with three teams sitting on 12 points at the top, while ATK and Kerala Blasters wins indicated their comeback as well.
The I-League also gave some surprising results this week when Mohun Bagan were held by Shillong Lajong, while East Bengal played out a thrilling 3-2 win over Churchill Brothers to continue their impressive run as of late. The Indian players shone in both the leagues this week, with the ones in ISL making quite the impact and winning precious points for their teams in some difficult fixtures. So let us take a look at Khel Now’s Indian Team of the Week!
ATK didn’t make the best starts to their season with two losses and two draws from their first four games and goalkeeper Debjit Majumder came under fire after their loss to Chennaiyin FC last week. The goalkeeper made some errors which proved to be fatal for ATK at the end, as “Savejit” was now being thrashed by the fans who loved him last season. Nevertheless, Majumder didn’t let that unnerve him and bounced back magnificently against Mumbai City FC.
He didn’t have a very busy day at the office, but came to ATK’s rescue whenever they needed him. Majumder was tested rigorously in the 2nd half, where he made multiple vital saves as well as showing a safe pair of hands. His defining moment came late into the game when he made a brilliant double-save late in the game and amazingly tipped the ball over the bar off Pranjal Bhumij’s shot. He redeemed himself against Mumbai, also winning the Emerging Player of the Match award for his heroics.
Kerala Blasters were in dire need of a win this week and their local boys came to their rescue to give them three vital points after a sour start to the season. Rino Anto was a star of their win on the day, where he showed amazingly presence to maraud forward with the ball and continued creating chances deep from the right-wing. Anto delivered a peach of an assist for C.K Vineeth’s goal in the 24th minute, which sent the Manjapadda into ruptures.
Anto looked lively in attack and wanted to receive the ball and go past players in the right-wing, tormenting Narzary and Jose Goncalves throughout the match. When it came to defending against the former, he was really solid and never let him a clear chance at creating a goal. Anto went onto make four crucial interceptions for Kerala, as well as making multiple blocks and clearances to keep the clean-sheet for his side. Wes Brown may have gotten all the praises in the end, but Anto was just as important for Kerala’s win on the day.
Team of the Week 5
Anwar Ali got his first start of the season against Mumbai City FC, replacing vice-captain Jordi as Teddy Sheringham took a bit of a risk at tweaking his defense after the loss to Chennaiyin. Anwar fits in really well with Tom Thorpe in the heart of ATK’s defense and looked really solid on the day, containing Mumbai’s Rafa Jorda really well. His chemistry with Thorpe looked to be pretty decent, with the two complimenting each other really well.
Ali was probably the best defender on the pitch for ATK, as he sniffed out attacks made sure Mumbai City FC never had a clear path to a goal. His six clearances on the day helped to thwart many of the Blues’ attacks, while Anwar also did well to cover for Prabir Das. He never looked shaky on the ball and the experienced defender also made 3 vital clearances. He showed his experience on the day, keeping Mumbai’s attackers silent and helping ATK earn a much-needed 3 points.
FC Goa showcased an attacking master-class against Delhi Dynamos last week when they absolutely ripped apart the Lions by thrashing them 1-5 at their own home turf! While their foreign attackers are getting all the praises at the moment, Goa have a very strong Indian base which is silently doing its job perfectly for them. Mohamed Ali is someone who put in a very strong shift in defense for them, containing the attacking threat of Delhi perfectly and making sure Goa can counter-attack with ease.
While he didn’t do anything “heroic” on the day, Ali put on a commendable display in the heart of defense for The Gaurs. Not only did he well with his marking, but also made multiple clearances to make sure Delhi didn’t get a sniff at goal. Something which really stood out was his passing, as he had an 88% passing accuracy for the 50 passes he attempted on the day! Ali played a big hand in Goa starting their counter-attacks perfectly and the former Neroca FC player’s composure and effectiveness in defense made sure The Gaurs sailed to victory.
Abhinas Ruidas has adapted to the new role of a left-back rather well in Mumbai City FC, as he continued proving that with a superb performance against ATK. Not only did he do really well with his defensive duties, Ruidas was always a menace for Mumbai on the attack and continuously improving his repertoire for being an impressive winger down the left-hand flank. He was being quite a menace for Prabir Das and co when he drifted forward and found the ball deep into the left-wing.
He attempted 8 crosses from the wing against ATK and continuously put in dangerous crosses which had to be dealt with by their defenders. Ruidas was also pretty sound defensively, making 3 clearances and intercepting the ball really well too. He neutralized the threat of Prabir and Nongrum, forcing ATK to move through the left-wing. Ruidas was pretty unlucky to be part of the losing side in the end but continued to prove himself as a impressive wing-back.
Dhanpal Ganesh makes a return to Khel Now’s team of the week and the young midfielder of Chennaiyin FC is making quite the impact for his team this month. Ganesh was a star for Chennaiyin in their important away win over Bengaluru FC this weekend, when he not only did well to compete well against Bengaluru FC’s talented midfield but also scored the winner for the Super Machans!
Ganesh put on another solid performance in the middle of the park for Chennaiyin FC, making four interceptions and two vital blocks as well! He didn’t let Bengaluru get any space in midfield to penetrate and received his moment at the dying minutes of the match. Rene Mihelic put in a delightful ball into the penalty area and Ganesh leapt the highest to score a towering header which won Chennaiyin the Southern Derby at Bengaluru’s turf! He won the “Moment of the Match” award for it and Ganesh’s amazing winner topped off a brilliant performance from the young midfielder.
Aizawl FC finally got their season up and running properly when they hosted Churchill Brothers at home and enchanted the crowd with some stunning free-flowing football shown by the defending champions. Aizawl made most of their movement through the left-wing, where their winger Lalmuan Kima was being an absolute menace for Churchill defender Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw.
Kima created a brilliant chance in the first half which Dodoz failed to finish in the first half, before he upped his tempo in the second half. Kima put in some delightful crosses into the box and one was met by the head of Kobayashi, who should’ve scored off it. Kima’s movement, his trickery and crossing was on point on the day and he ran Churchill’s defense ragged with his thunderous display for Aizawl. He was unlucky to be booked for simulation late into the game, but Kima’s memorable performance proved just how dangerous he can be through that left-wing of Aizawl.
Sunil Chhetri had quite the topsy-turvy week with Bengaluru FC this week, with the Blues skipper leading from the front in both their matches. Chhetri did well to create opportunities and scored a late goal against FC Pune City to seal the deal for Bengaluru FC in mid-week, even though one can claim that he should’ve gotten another one after his goal in the first half was ruled out due to hand-ball(which was a wrong call).
Chhetri looked the only BFC player trying to make a difference in their dismal defeat to Chennaiyin in the weekend, with the BFC captain showing amazing energy to go past players and taking many attempts on goal. He had multiple shots which were saved well by Chennaiyin’s goalkeeper, but he scored the equalizer through a brilliant volley which was unstoppable. Captain Fantastic was unlucky to be on the losing side, but continued proving his class this week.
Bengaluru FC vs Chennaiyin FC highlights
Laldanmawia Ralte is proving to be quite the prolific midfielder for East Bengal this season, with the winger making an impact for the Red and Gold Brigaders once again at the weekend. He makes the Khel Now team of the week for the second consecutive week, with the hard-working winger helping Khalid Jamil’s side get another important win in their bag. He looked really threatening in the right wing, going past Churchill’s defenders multiple times.
Ralte seems to have formed great chemistry with his team-mates and moved into great positions in the wing, often forcing the defenders to lose their concentration and move out of position. Ralte sneaked past Churchill’s defense and was found by Willis Plaza, who played a cutting pass for him to equalize the game for East Bengal and scored his 3rd goal of the season. He kept on making dangerous runs and creating chances for East Bengal, with his energetic performance not going in vain as Bengal won the game in the last minute.
Striker: Ronald Singh (Neroca FC)
Neroca FC may have thumped Gokulam Kerala FC by 0-3 earlier this month, but things weren’t looking so easy for them against Chennai City FC last week. They were drawing their first home game of the season, before super-sub Ronald Singh was brought on by Gift Raikhan. The 20-year-old striker was brought on in the 77th minute and slotted in nicely in forward as Neroca tried to get the winner after containing the Chennai onslaught in the 2nd half.
Ronald found himself in the right place at the right time in the 90th minute, when he stayed on and received Aryn Williams’ brilliant cross, before pushing it just past the on-rushing goalkeeper of Chennai City to score the winner and send the Neroca supporters into ruptures. It was quite the historic moment for Neroca and the young lad as well, who introduced himself to the Indian Footballing scene his stunning winner.
Jeje Lalpekhlua seems to have found the kind of form Chennaiyin FC will hope he maintains throughout the season, with Chennaiyin’s striker looking really dangerous in front of goal in the past few matches. After their dismal defeat to Mumbai last weekend, Chennaiyin had a point to prove in the Southern Derby against Bengaluru FC.
They went on the attack right from the get go and found their opening goal through Jeje, who hit a powerful shot which went through Gurpreet Singh Sandhu after Lenny’s botched shot deflected to the path of the striker. Jeje looked pretty dangerous even after that, getting another shot on target which was saved by Gurpreet. He also fell deep and created a few chances for Chennaiyin and maintained his tendency of showing up in the big matches and playing a vital part in The Super Machans terrific win against their rivals.