There were many takeaways from Round 2 of the I-League…
Although this year’s I-League is past Round 2, the top teams are yet to compete against each other. Khel now picks five of the most important things that have been evident with the clubs in the recently concluded round.
1. Minerva will find goals hard to come by
The I-League newcomers from Punjab, Minerva Punjab FC have made several errors in their opening two games and find themselves in sixth position in the points table. The Punjab-based team is currently facing a finishing problem in their midst and are set to face a goal drought in the coming days, should they fail to add a proven goalscorer.
Minerva’s first choice forward, Manandeep Singh has been disappointing till now and a squad made up mostly of players who were surplus to requirements at other Indian top flight clubs does not offer much guarantee of goals for head coach Surinder Singh.
2. Mohun Bagan’s bench strength will be vital
The Kolkata giants have won their first two games in this year’s I-League and are expected to be one of the contenders for the title this season. The Mariners currently have one of the most complete squads in India that consists of stars such as Katsumi Yusa, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Darryl Duffy. In the opening fixture, Balwant Singh scored the only goal that won them the three points, whereas newcomer Duffy stepped up against Lajong in their second match and scored a brace to secure the win. With Sony Norde still absent, Kean Lewis and youngster Raynier Fernandes have done exceptionally well in place of the Haitian which speaks volumes of the current squad strength for the Mariners in this season’s I-League.
3. East Bengal looked unconving in win over DSK Shivajians
East Bengal still have a lot of work to do.
Trevor Morgan’s team secured their first win of the season against DSK Shivajians at Belwadi. However, even with the win over the Pune-based team, the Red and Gold brigade looked uncomfortable and moreover unconvincing at times.
Shivajians capitalized on their weakness in aerial play and exploited them using the wings throughout the match. The back four left gaps on several occasions and the Shivajians forwards were opportunistuc enough profit from it. With big games coming up against Churchill Brothers and Bengaluru FC, tougher tests lie ahead for the Kolkata outfit.
4. Bengaluru need to step up a level
The defending champions currently sit comfortably at the top of the table following victories against Shillong Lajong and Chennai. Though they have scored multiple goals in their opening fixtures, their defense has has hardly been tested while they were made to work for the win against their southern rivals. With a new coach at the helm, Bengaluru have to step up a notch when they compete against the big guns of the league such as Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the coming days.
5. Chennai look out of their depth
Chennai City were made to look out of their depth at the weekend by the Blues. The Chennai-based club drew their opening fixture and lost their last fixture and currently sit in seventh place in the league standings. The team still needs the infusion of a lot more quality while manager Robin Charles Raja also has to find his own feet at this level. They may be exempt from relegation, but Chennai need to start picking up wins soon or risk getting cut adrift at the foot of the table.