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I-League

Talking Points: Can Israil Gurung be in contention for national team call-up?

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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With the win, the Red Machines reinforced their position in the standings.

Churchill Brothers continued their dominant start to the I-League season by thrashing Aizawl FC 4-1 at Tilak Maidan, Goa on Sunday. The Red Machines went 2-0 up with two quickfire goals in the first half thanks to Khalid Aucho and Israil Gurung. Aizawl got one back through Ansumana Kromah in the second half, but Churchill hit back with two more goals from debutant Anthony Wolfe and league top scorer Willis Plaza to earn another thumping home win. Here are our talking points from the thrilling game:

5. Anthony Wolfe’s introduction has made Churchill even stronger

Churchill Brothers’ latest signing Anthony Wolfe, a legend for Trinidad and Tobacco, made quite the impression on his debut for the club. Wolfe looked hungry right from the getgo after coming on in the second half, with his physicality and movement troubling Aizawl.

He scored a superb goal by taking Ceesay’s pass well and tricking multiple defenders, before tapping into the net. Wolfe adds another dimension to Churchill’s sleek game with his physicality and can use his presence to bully defences. The Red Machines are already looking unstoppable in attack, but have now been boosted even more with Wolfe’s introduction which is set to give them bigger rewards as the season wears on.

4. A defensive disaster-class gives further headaches to Gift Raikhan

While Gift Raikhan’s teams are known to be defensively solid, the same cannot be said about his Aizawl side so far. They looked all over the place at the back against Churchill, who slaughtered them like lambs. The Goans attempted more than 15 shots, out of which 7+ were on target. They hounded Aizawl through the wings, with wing-backs Vanlalduatsanga and Hmunmawia having absolute nightmares.

The Red Machines found it too easy to penetrate Aizawl’s defence and midfield, which did nothing to impress Raikhan. The Mizo gaffer’s NEROCA conceded only 13 goals in the whole of last season, but Aizawl have matched that tally in less than half the games this time around. He needs to do something in reshuffling his back four to improve their sorry state and put an end to these embarrassing showings.

3. Can Israil Gurung’s heroics give him outside chance at national call-up?

Israil Gurung has been Churchill’s secret weapon this season and with most teams giving attention to the likes of Dawda Ceesay and Willis Plaza, he’s devastated opponents with his excellent performances. Gurung continued his revelation of a run for the Red Machines, putting Aizawl to the sword. He moved with freedom on the right and created quite a few chances with some stunning crosses and excellent set-piece prowess.



Gurung struck a venomous free-kick which beat everyone to assist Aucho’s goal and a minute later got his reward, scoring powerfully from Dawda Ceesay’s cross. With coach Stephen Constantine watching, he made an emphatic statement with a Hero of the Match performance. The gaffer must have been impressed by Gurung’s work-rate and could rethink his plans for the national-team selection later this month.


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2. Aizawl in desperate need of an enforcer

Aizawl got absolutely clattered by Churchill Brothers and were abysmal apart from a little phase in the second half. They were constantly being pressed back by Churchill’s incredible intensity and nobody even dared to answer back. Aizawl’s midfield was slugglishly weak, while captain Alfred Jaryan had a stinker. Jaryan conceded the penalty and even got bullied by Wolfe and Plaza at centre-back.

Raikhan needs to find an enforcer in the team, who can create chances and also defend well. He needs a hard-working player who’ll play for the badge and inspire the team, something Jaryan can’t do right now. Be it a new signing or igniting a talent from within, the tactician needs to work fast on getting an enforcer who can exponentially improve their overall game.

1. Churchill Brothers have made the Tilak Maidan their fortress

While the Red Machines are playing great football wherever they go, they tend to turn on the style when they’re playing on home turf. It seems the conditions at the Tilak Maidan are enabling Churchill to play some sleek, fluid passing football which has destroyed both the northast sides who’ve visited so far. Churchill absolutely thrashed Aizawl in their second home match, creating more than 10 goalscoring chances and scoring four again.

They’ve already won two out of two home matches, having only won around three last time out. The Red Machines are destroying teams with their efficient, electric football and have fortified their home ground. If they continue playing such stylish football, any team which visits Goa will have a tough time getting any points out of Churchill at the Tilak Maidan.

Published: Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:45 AM IST

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