5 talking points from the 2nd Division I-League preliminary stages
Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar
The second tier league has been nothing less than extraordinary this season.
The 2nd Division I-League has delivered some very entertaining football and has given rise to some underrated sides in Indian Football this season. It's the first season where the reserve sides of the ISL clubs have been allowed to participate and whilst their topsy-turvy journey, few other sides have put up charismatic performances. The 2nd Division has once again proved how vast Indian Football's reach has stretched and will surely ensure another new side to grace the top division once again.
With the final round just around the corner, let's have a look at five talking points of the 2nd Division I-League preliminary stages this season.
5. TRAU FC has become the torchbearer of northeastern football
The northeastern teams have definitely taken Indian Football by storm in the past few years. NEROCA FC's outing in the recently concluded I-League season being an example of how football in the seven sisters is growing. TRAU showed a lot of promise prior to the kick-off to the 2nd Division and proved their mettle ousting some big names in the preliminary stages. TRAU were put in a difficult group with Mohammedan Sporting and reserve sides of Bengaluru FC and Chennaiyin FC but emerged as the group leaders at the end.
TRAU scored the most numbers of goals in the preliminary stage this season
TRAU's scintillating attacking football dazzled their opponents many times in the season. They scored an amazing 26 goals in the prelims stages, more than any other team in the league. While Nigerian striker Princewell Emeka led their frontlines with seven goals, it was a complete team effort from TRAU who dominated their oppositions in many games. They are expected to look to up their game in the final round and replicate NEROCA's success last season.
4. Standout performances from homegrown players
While the I-League might have been overshadowed by some of the foreign talents shining out for their teams, it has not been the case in the 2nd Division. The Indian players have stood out and proved how there are some impressive talents hidden in these relatively unknown clubs. While it is true that the 2nd Division clubs signed some impressive overseas players, it was the homegrown talents who did much of the work throughout the season.
The Indian players have dominated the goal-scoring charts and among the 10 players who are currently tied among the top 3 current goalscorers, only two foreigners (Robert D‘Souza Ribiero and Princewill Emeka) feature in it. Coming to defensive records, the Indian goalkeepers are dominating the clean sheets charts, proving why India's goalkeeping situation is in good hands. For clubs like Ozone FC and Real Kashmir, the Indian players have been pivotal to their success. The homegrown talents' impressive display in the 2nd Division is also evidence of how the roots of Indian football is becoming stronger with each passing year and giving birth to many exciting footballers.
3. Mohammedan Sporting's disappointing run once again
Mohammedan Sporting looked set to take the I-League 2nd Division by storm this season and they had a powerful squad to help their chances. They even signed former ATK star Fikru to boost their chances at promotion. Even though they started their season on a strong note, they started faltering as the season went on. This plague has hit the side for a few seasons now as they slip up at the hurdles at the group stages.
Mohammedan have once again been disastrous in the 2nd Division I-League this season
Despite having some standout performers from West Bengal's Santosh Trophy squad, consistency became the biggest issue for the Kolkata side. They failed to go toe to toe against the northeast Indian teams or the ISL reserve sides in the race for top spot and concluded their season in the fifth position in Group C. Mohammedan looked like a side with no clear direction, with their sacking of coach Biswajit Bhattacharya halfway through the season proving that. With the situation they are currently in, it seems highly unlikely that we will be watching the Black Panthers in the I-League anytime soon.
2. Real Kashmir FC's Inspirational Evolution
Real Kashmir FC proved to be the surprise packages of the I-League 2nd Division this season and finished toppers of Group A in the preliminary stages. The Leopards are only playing their second season in the 2nd Division I-League this term, but have been impressive despite not being known that widely in the country. While Kashmir might be facing some political tensions right now, it does not seem to have affected the Leopards' gameplay at all and the 14-year-old club has defeated some of the big guns so far in the 2nd Division.
Real Kashmir might not have the stardom like some of the other teams in the league, they seem to have a lot of heart and grit to grind out results. Rangers legend David Robertson has led them to the final round without a single loss, with their success being the polar opposite to that of sister side Lonestar Kashmir. Real Kashmir is not only a defensively strong side who only conceded eight goals from 10 games, but their clinical gameplay fetched them many points in the group stages. They still face a tough task ahead of them in the final round, but knowing Real Kashmir's grit and passion for winning, they could seal a ticket to the I-League later this month.
1. Ozone FC's Success Shows Growth In Karnataka Football
Ozone FC has been quite the marvel in the I-League 2nd Division this season and have proven about how Football in Bengaluru isn't just based out of Bengaluru FC. Despite being put in a relatively tricky group, they proved their doubters wrong with some strong performances throughout the preliminary stages. Ozone was extremely strong defensively and only conceded three goals throughout the season, with their goalkeeper Abhishek Das leading the Golden Glove race by securing six clean-sheets in 10 games.
Sabeeth has been one of the highest scorers in the 2nd Division I-League this season
Not only were they great defensively but were effective whenever they attacked, with their striking duo of Robert Ribiero and C.S. Sabeeth running riot in the league. The two strikers formed a deadly partnership and have 15 goals between themselves, contributing to almost 90% of Ozone's total goals scored during the preliminary stages. Ozone showed some amazing growth in their three-year run as a professional club and after being eliminated in the prelims last season, they came back with more fire-power in this term. Ozone's success will definitely give more motivation to the other Karnataka clubs to raise their game and OFC can create history if they attain promotion to the I-League next season.
Published: Mon May 21, 2018 12:21 PM IST