With more than half the league season gone, the battle is heating up at both ends of the table.
Indian club football might be at a standstill due to the AFC Asian Cup, yet the I-League is continuing to entertain the masses who crave for more. With the Indian national team fighting for qualification from the group in the UAE, I-League clubs are fighting for success domestically.
While Chennai City proved why they’re prime favourites to lift the title this season with two impressive wins, Real Kashmir and East Bengal aren’t very far behind. Some domestic players performed really well and raised their game to help their sides pick up crucial wins. Here’s our I-League Team of Phase Six:
Goalkeeper: Prabhsukhan Gill (Indian Arrows)
The Indian Arrows put in some resurgent performances to prove their mettle against intimidating opposition in the last few weeks. They were brave defensively and Prabhsukhan Gill’s impressive work between the sticks raised their confidence. Gill did well to keep things tight against the dangerous Churchill Brothers, only conceding a single goal.
He also put in a strong performance away to Aizawl, earning a clean-sheet and making some solid saves. Gill also thwarted East Bengal’s relentless attacking pressure and made a brilliant penalty save to deny Lalrindika Ralte.
Right-Back: Dharmaraj Ravanan (Real Kashmir)
The experienced right-back has further strengthened Real Kashmir’s defence with his sturdiness and played an influential role in their success against the Kolkata giants recently. Ravanan did some brilliant work against East Bengal, neutralizing the pacy Brandon Vanlalremdika’s threat and putting in a strong shift with crucial challenges.
Weeks later, he had to face a different task of keeping Sony Norde and Mohun Bagan quiet. By putting in some strong challenges and cleverly marking Norde, he forced the Haitian to rely on his set-piece prowess to score. Ravanan helped preserve Kashmir’s lead and earn them a famous victory.
I-League Team of Phase Six
Center-Back: Nickson Castanha (Churchill Brothers)
In only his second appearance for Churchill Brothers, Nickson Castanha made a big impression against Indian Arrows. The young defender was brilliant in countering the pace and skill of the Arrows. He put in a superb performance, making crucial tackles and clearances to earn a clean-sheet and also win the Hero of the Match award.
Castanha continued his compelling work against a physical Minerva Punjab side. He made it back-to-back clean-sheets for the Red Machines and helped them earn two crucial wins to get back into the title race.
Center-Back: Jitendra Singh (Indian Arrows)
Like his goalkeeper, Jitendra Singh was another bright outlet in defence for Indian Arrows in their recent matches. He did well to keep Churchill Brothers restricted and was commendable against Aizawl, keeping their dangerous attackers Ansumana Kromah and Lalkhawpuimawia at bay.
Jitendra played a big part in them keeping a valuable clean-sheet and earning three points at Aizawl. He did some decent work against East Bengal as well, but couldn’t get the win. Singh’s playing a key role in the Arrows’ defensive maturity this season and proved his growth with some strong performances.
Left-Back: Nallappan Mohanraj (Churchill Brothers)
Nallappan Mohanraj has been a reliable feature in Churchill Brothers’ defence throughout the season and proved his mettle with multiple strong performances again in the past few weeks. The left-back did a good job to neutralize the Arrows’ threat, containing the likes of Rahul KP and Vikram Pratap Singh on his side.
He improved his performance level against Minerva Punjab and did a good job in neutralizing the defending champions’ attacking threat. Mohanraj played a crucial role in earning two clean-sheets and proved how key he is for the Red Machines’ defence.
Right-Wing: Surchandra Singh (Real Kashmir)
One of Real Kashmir’s brightest attacking outlets this season, Surchandra Singh has been responsible for sparking a vast majority of attacks for the Snow Leopards. He’s enjoyed prolific form in the past few months and when it came to performing against the Kolkata giants, he was ready for the challenge.
Surchandra was the creator for the own-goal conceded by East Bengal in their draw, with his cross troubling Lalramchullova. He improved his performance level against Mohun Bagan, going past his man superbly, before assisting Mason Robertson with a fantastic cross.
Central Midfield: Edwin Vanspaul (Chennai City FC)
Edwin Vanspaul’s been in inspired form for Chennai City this season, leading the charge for them. Playing at right-back, the midfielder has often moved into midfield to help his teammates wrestle control and create chances. In Chennai’s 6-1 thrashing of Shillong Lajong, Vanspaul had an amazing game.
Vanspaul continued his impressive work in the Southern Derby against Gokulam Kerala, putting in a brave performance. Edwin made another assist against Gokulam, helping his side complete their comeback.
Central Midfield: Sriram B (Chennai City FC)
Coming in for the injured Charles Anandaraj, who’s played such a discreet yet vital role in midfield for Chennai City, Sriram had a difficult job. However, he drifted into a deep midfield role effortlessly and had a great game against Lajong. He kept their inexperienced midfield at bay and controlled the game with much vigour.
Sriram had another tough task on his hands against Gokulam, but held his own against Chennai’s rivals. He broke up play, created attacking moves and retained possession admirably in both games and proved to be a commendable cover for Anandaraj.
Left-Wing: Subhash Singh (NEROCA FC)
Subhash Singh has been on song for NEROCA this season and turns into a different animal at the Khuman Lapak Main Stadium. He put in another admirable performance against Shillong Lajong in the Northeast Derby, blowing them away with his trickery and off-the-ball movement.
Subhash got in behind Lajong’s defence and slotted in coolly in the first half to give his side a resounding 2-0 lead and setup the game for them. He created numerous chances and was energetic in always trying to get more goals.
Striker: Jobby Justin (East Bengal)
Arguably, the best domestic striker in the country right now, Jobby Justin’s inspired goalscoring form continued into the New Year. Justin showcased his poacher’s side in matches against Real Kashmir and Indian Arrows, taking his tally for the season to seven goals. He scored a smart equalizer to break open a stubborn Kashmir defence, finishing from close range after a set-piece.
Justin showed much vigour in threatening the Arrows and received his reward when Samad Ali Mallick’s shot rebounded for him to score into an open goal.
Striker: Rohit Danu (Indian Arrows)
Not many knew about Rohit Danu before the Arrows’ match against Aizawl. However, after he made history against the former I-League champions, many got to know about this bright talent. After gaining a reputation as a clinical goalscorer with the Indian U-16 side, Danu’s been playing well in the I-League this season.
He made his mark against Aizawl, finishing off a bright move with much vigour to become the youngest goalscorer in I-League history. He helped the Arrows win the game, moving them off the bottom places and introducing himself to Indian football in style.