I-League round Four saw defending champions Bengaluru FC ons East Bengal whilst Mohun Bagan claimed the top spot after securing a narrow hard-fought win against newcomers Chennai City. Shillong Lajong handed Minerva Punjab yet another defeat as DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers drew 1-1. Here are the five talking points from the fourth round. Besides, Aizawl announced themselves with an away win against Mumbai.
Home form key to Shillong Lajong’s season
Shillong Lajong endured arguably the worst start in the division, losing to Bengaluru, Mohun Bagan and Aizawl in subsequent games on the road. Scoring just a single goal in 270 minutes, they had conceded every 39 minutes prior to the kick off at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong that saw them lock horns with fellow strugglers and I-League debutants Minerva Punjab.
At home to the Warriors, they registered their first win of the campaign, courtesy of goals from Rupert Nongrum and Aser Dipanda Dicka. Although their away form is far from inspiring now, they ought to be more resilient away from home and build on their home win – the 2-1 win against Minerva – to avoid partaking in the relegation dogfight this season.
DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers both flounder
DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers both headed into their Saturday’s meeting, hoping to secure a much-needed win. However, goals from Kim Song-Yong and Adil Khan for either side meant the struggling bottom half-sides shared the spoils at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.
A second consecutive win – after beating newcomers Chennai 2-0 – should have handed the Pune club a boost heading into the crucial stages of the league, but they have now returned to square one, killing the little momentum they had built. The Goa club, on the other hand, might be contented to secure their first I-League point after suffering three consecutive defeats against Mohun Bagan, Mumbai and East Bengal, but they still remain rooted to the bottom of the table, with Chennai and Minerva sitting above them only on superior goal difference.
Mohun Bagan show character in Chennai
Four-time Indian league champions Mohun Bagan touched down in Chennai in the wake of three consecutive wins, against Churchill Brothers, Shillong Lajong and Minerva Punjab. As they had secured nine points without conceding a single goal, many pundits expected the I-League juggernauts to walk over I-League’s new corporate entry in the form of Chennai City. However, the Robin Charles Raja-managed side handed them their toughest test of the campaign so far, provoking their best performance of the season yet.
Whilst Sanjoy Sen’s men peppered Karanjit Singh’s goals with shots throughout the game, Marcos Vinicius claimed the first goal on the back of an Eduardo Ferreira defensive gaffe. The visitors, however, quickly rebounded as they scored two with just a little over half hour remaining. Chennai’s favourite striker Jeje Lalpekhlua sparked the comeback, with Sony Norde completing it with a well-taken shot. The thought of losing to a side who had not scored a top-division goal before ought to have served as a wake-up call for the title favourites, who showed great character on Saturday night.
Proven goalscorer is Mumbai’s need of the hour
Mumbai now sit fifth having collected six points so far. Although there are only slim odds they will be battling for top-flight survival, they definitely look ill-equipped to challenge for the title this season. A win against Aizawl might have seen them enter the title race, but suffering a home defeat at the hands of the Mizoram club meant they remained a mid-table club.
Despite boasting a stacked midfield and defense, they look toothless in front of goal. They have averaged a measly 0.75 goals per game, with Thoi Singh, Victorino Fernandes and Karan Sawhney scoring one goal each. Unsurprisingly, their wins have come against bottom half clubs in DSK Shivajians and punching bags Churchill Brothers. To be a lethal force in the division, their strikers shall up their game, lest the quality in other areas prove useless.
East Bengal should take their chances
East Bengal now sit second, just two points adrift of table toppers and local rivals Mohun Bagan. They remain one of the three teams to be undefeated, but their failure to take chances could cost them in the long run, especially with every team improving in leaps and bounds with each passing game.
Fellow title contenders in Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru average 2.25 goals per game, as opposed to the Lal-holud’s 1.75. Having defeated defending champions and AFC Cup finalists Bengaluru 2-1 at Barasat Stadium on Sunday evening, they have cemented their status as title contenders. However, Trevor Morgan’s side should look to take their chances more often than they have done in the first 360 minutes of their I-League 2017 campaign. Willis Plaza, in particular, and all East Bengal forwards, in general, would need to pull up their socks and convert the abundant chances being created by Wedson Anselme and Nikhil Pujari.