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I-League

I-League TOTP 5: East Bengal trio shines as Red and Gold storm back in title race

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The team for this phase is dominated by talented young players. 

Slowly heading into the business end of the season, the I-League is continuing to provide interesting results, which are significantly affecting the league table. Like last campaign, things at the top are extremely tight and the league is as open as ever, with it being difficult to determine someone as clear favourites. There were some more impressive performances from I-League teams over the last few weeks, with East Bengal, NEROCA FC and Real Kashmir being especially good.

At the same time, some homegrown talent gave brilliant performances. Be it in the Kolkata Derby or other crunch matches, the showings from the domestic bunch won over the fans. So, here is our I-League team of the phase five:

Goalkeeper: Bhaskar Roy (Minerva Punjab)

Replacing Arshdeep Singh in the team, Bhaskar Roy definitely increased his chances of attaining a regular place with some solid performances against Chennai City and NEROCA. He did a great job to deny the league leaders, making some smart saves and keeping things tight in defence to earn a valuable clean-sheet.

Roy was also superb against NEROCA, nullifying their attack by saving the shots on goal very well. He earned another clean-sheet away, proving himself to be a very safe pair of hands for Minerva.

Right-Back: Arijit Bagui (Mohun Bagan)

The Mohun Bagan right-back was part of some topsy-turvy results, as he went down fighting against East Bengal. Bagui was resurgent after going 3-1 behind to East Bengal, showing a lot of vigour going forward and creating many chances from the right as well.

He upped his performance against Minerva Punjab later on, keeping a valuable clean-sheet and sending in some nice crosses. The dependable right-back continued his good run against Shillong Lajong, where he helped the Mariners keep another clean-sheet and nullified the opposition’s attacking threat with a solid defensive performance.

I-League Team of Phase 5

Center-Back: Muhammed Hammad (Real Kashmir)

Muhammed Hammad had a difficult task on his hands after coming in for Mason Robertson in Real Kashmir’s trip to Chennai City. With the league leaders brushing away sides with their attacking style of play, Hammad dug in deep to pull off a solid defensive performance.

He kept Pedro Manzi quiet throughout the game and rallied his troops really well with some strong challenges. Hammad allowed Kashmir to keep a rare clean-sheet in Coimbatore and go away with a precious win, which catapulted them into becoming title contenders once again.

Center-Back: Deepak Tangri (Indian Arrows)

Making his start in a three-man defence, Deepak Tangri showed impressive maturity in blending in with the complicated setup to contain Gokulam Kerala. Coming up against an unpredictable attack of the Malabarians, Tangri had to be extremely alert to stop their attacks and was clever with his defending.

He put in a few important clearances and tackles to stop Gokulam’s attacks and kept their dangerous attackers at bay as well. Tangri helped his side record an important win and most importantly, earned a clean-sheet.

Left-Back: Sebastian Thangmuansang (NEROCA FC)

Sebastian Thangmuansang is proving to be a sturdy defensive outlet for NEROCA this season and put in a couple of solid shifts in recent weeks as well. Sebastian was as reliable as ever against Minerva Punjab, containing their unpredictable attack really well and also helping going forward.

He helped the Orange Brigade keep a clean-sheet against the defending champions and later earn a precious win against Mohun Bagan. Sebastian nullified Azharuddin Mallick’s threat and later kept Sheik Faiaz quiet, putting in some crucial tackles to neutralize the Mariners’ threat.

Right Central Midfield: Naorem Tondomba Singh (NEROCA FC)

Another find for NEROCA this season, Tondomba Singh had a task ahead of him facing the experienced Mohun Bagan midfield on Friday. However, the energetic and willful midfielder put in a strong showing by nagging away at the Mariners' midfielders and putting in some crunching tackles to win back the ball.

Tondomba’s distribution was great and his defensive prowess also allowed NEROCA to operate freely in the final third. He didn’t allow Bagan to get much possession, neutralizing their threat in midfield.

Central Midfield: Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Indian Arrows)

Amarjit Singh Kiyam’s been the leader to spur on the Indian Arrows and was again on song against Gokulam Kerala. Kiyam put in a commendable effort in central midfield, keeping things steady and distributing play really well to his attackers.

He kept things composed for the young Arrows and when it came to taking the decisive penalty, Kiyam stepped up confidently.

Left Central Midfield: Lalrindika Ralte (East Bengal)

Lalrindika Ralte has become the creative lynchpin of East Bengal and put in some memorable performances to reinvigorate their comeback after three losses. Didika was superb against Mohun Bagan, creating many chances and recording one assist, when his powerful corner met Laldanmawia’s header.

He improved upon that against Churchill Brothers, getting another clever assist to tee up Jamie Santos’ goal. Ralte got lucky when his free-kick from distance crept into the net to win the game for East Bengal, but he’d definitely take it!


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Right-Wing: Laldanmawia Ralte (East Bengal)

Laldanmawia Ralte was experiencing a relatively underwhelming season with East Bengal until he decided to spark it up on the biggest stage possible. Ralte was ojn song in the Kolkata Derby, flooring Mohun Bagan with a special performance. He scored a brace and also provided an assist to what was a blistering display.

It was enough to give the Red and Gold Brigaders their first derby win in more than two years and give Alejandro Menendez’s side the upper-hand over their city rivals.

Left-Wing: Surchandra Singh (Real Kashmir)

Surchandra Singh is having a real breakthrough season with Real Kashmir and has become a vital cog of their attack. He gave another commendable performance against Gokulam Kerala, threatening them with his pace and crossing ability.

However, Surchandra’s moment to shine came when he scored a world-class effort to equalize things on the day. Singh’s incredible goal proved him to be a man riding high on confidence, as he’s become a player every team needs to start being wary of.

Striker: Jobby Justin (East Bengal)

Lauded as one of India’s best strikers right now, Jobby Justin won over the hearts of East Bengal fans with a brilliant performance in the Kolkata Derby. He looked dangerous right from the getgo and setup the equalizer with a cheeky assist, which broke open the Mohun Bagan defence and allowed Ralte to score.

He then scored an outrageous side-volley to give his team the lead, sending the fans into an absolute frenzy.

Published: Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:43 PM IST

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