The Red and Gold Brigade are eight points adrift of the top spot in the standings.
Chennai City FC came from a goal down to win 2-1 against East Bengal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Monday. Laldanmawia Ralte had headed the Red and Gold Brigade into a 9th minute lead, but a clever deflected goal from Pedro Manzi and a top-class toepoke finish from Alexander Jesuraj helped the home side to register an outstanding win.
It was a result that is likely to have a huge effect on the I-League title race, with the southerners wheeling away from the rest of the pack in spectacular fashion.
Here are the five talking points from the game:
5. Is East Bengal in the title race anymore?
With this defeat, East Bengal have now slipped to sixth spot in the league table, with 19 points from 11 games. Despite having a match in hand over league leaders Chennai City, they are eight points off the top spot and given their erratic form, it is unlikely that the gap will be bridged this season.
While it may be too early to say that their season is done and dusted as there are nine more games to go, it is becoming increasingly obvious that they lack the grit and dexterity needed to win the league.
4. Did East Bengal make a mistake by releasing Mahmoud Al Amnah?
Mahmoud Al Amnah has been one of the most impressive playmakers in the Indian football circuit over the last couple of seasons, but he was released by East Bengal ahead of this campaign due to injury issues. However, he has just signed for Minerva Punjab, which shows that he has made a full recovery.
The veteran midfielder’s absence was direly felt in the game, with both Toni Dovale and Jaime Colado failing to make an impression in the role of the team’s playmaker. A playmaker of Al Amnah’s stature could have made a major difference in tilting the game in East Bengal’s favour on Tuesday.
3. Does Chennai’s Indian contingent deserve to be called up to the national team?
Previously we have talked a lot about Chennai’s Spanish contingent and while they were impressive once again against East Bengal, the key difference was made by their exciting crop of Indian players. Gaurav Bora, Edwin Vanspaul, Sri Rama and Jesuraj were all absolutely brilliant, with Edwin and Jesuraj being the pick of the lot.
Jesuraj has been a tireless runner in the Chennai midfield all season and his efforts were duly rewarded, when he nudged the ball in to score what turned out to be the eventual winning goal. There is an extremely high chance that some or all of these young guns will be making it to the Indian national team setup very, very soon.
2. Will Pedro Manzi win the Golden Boot this season?
11 goals in 12 appearances: if there was one man who could sum up Chennai City’s attitude this season, it would be Manzi. He had started the campaign with a hat-trick, suffered a slump in form, but then came back very strongly and has looked unstoppable since.
Manzi is currently tied on goals scored with Churchill Brothers’ Willis Plaza and if Chennai do go on to win the league, it is highly-likely that he will pocket the Golden Boot for himself.
1. Can Chennai City go all the way this season?
Chennai have been a delight to watch this season and the I-League table reflects just that. They have 27 points from 12 games so far and with the league just entering its business end, they have managed to dig deep and churn out results one after the other. With an excellent squad and bench in place, Akbar Nawaz’s men certainly look like the favorites to win the title.