Chennai City continue to be on top of the table followed by Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala.
The I-League has kept on producing exciting games in the past few weeks, with Chennai City continuing to make a stark impression, moving clear ahead in the title race. The Kolkata giants still look rusty and unfit to mount a serious title challenge, while old horses Churchill Brothers continue to prove their impressive resurgence.
There were some surprises, some thrills and spills and most notably, some brilliant performances from the domestic players which the I-League is promoting agressively. Here’s our I-League team of the third phase:
Gokulam’s Rajesh and Aizawl’s Lalkhawpuimawia have performed brilliantly in attack this season
Goalkeeper: James Kithan (Churchill Brothers)
James Kithan redeemed himself after getting sent off earlier on in the season. In two difficult away games against Mohun Bagan and Gokulam Kerala, the young goalkeeper kept his resolve and produced some strong performances.
He did superbly to keep out the Mariners, making some impressive saves to help Churchill earn a precious clean-sheet. Kithan also looked alert against Gokulam, keeping them restricted and enabling Churchill to be in the game throughout.
Right-Back: Abhishek Das (Gokulam Kerala)
The sturdy right-back continued his impressive work for the Malabarians, playing a pivotal role in their win over Minerva Punjab. He provided the superb cross for Rajesh’s winner and kept Minerva’s unpredictable attack quiet with his clever defending.
Das also did really well against an in-form Churchill Brothers, keeping their left wing neutralized. He made some important challenges and ventured forward eagerly to try and create chances for his side.
Center-Back: Abhash Thapa (Real Kashmir)
Real Kashmir mixed things up against Indian Arrows, with center-back Mason Robertson operating as a makeshift striker. Abhash Thapa was made to fill his void, something he did surprisingly well.
He easily shifted into the center of defence, keeping the Arrows’ electricity defused in the final third. Thapa made some important challenges and used the environment to his advantage to help Minerva get another clean-sheet under their belt.
Center-Back: Thoiba Singh (Minerva Punjab)
The Indian U-16 starlet made his first start for the defending champions against Indian Arrows and produced a bright display against some of his international teammates. Thoiba looked solid and despite his age, his chemistry with the older players was really impressive.
Singh made some solid tackles and intelligently operated in his position, helping Minerva keep an important clean-sheet and shutting out the Arrows attack.
Left-Back: Ajithkumar Kamaraj (Chennai City)
The left-back’s has a good work-rate which makes him a vigorous defensive figure
The energetic left-back is turning out to be a revelation in Chennai City’s success and continued his great work in recent matches. Despite not getting a clean-sheet, Kamaraj’s terrific work on the left was shown in his team’s impressive performances.
He did well to attack with intent against Chennai’s northeast opponents and gave another decent showing in Kolkata. Kamaraj’s terrific work-rate has enabled him to be a vigorous defensive figure in recent games and fluid in attack as well.
Central Midfield: Arjun Jayaraj (Gokulam Kerala)
Arjun Jayaraj returned in style to Gokulam’s team, giving another brilliant performance for the Malabarians against Churchill. Jayaraj was an absolute thorn in midfield, while also making clever runs in the final third.
He intelligently moved into a dangerous position and scored a beautiful goal. Jayaraj was their main creator in midfield, stitching together important passes and creating moves, while also breaking up Churchill’s surges with his sound defensive work.
Central Midfield: Richard Costa (Churchill Brothers)
The Churchill academy graduate’s steel and energetic demeanor helped the Red Machines get four important points on the road. Costa gave a really impressive showing at the Salt Lake Stadium, neutralizing Mohun Bagan’s midfield with his sturdiness and electricity in hunting down balls and pressing hard.
He continued his impressive momentum into the Gokulam game, helping Churchill control the midfield and distributing the ball well. Went close to scoring too, which would’ve been the perfect reward for a prolific week.
Left Wing: Phrangki Buam (Shillong Lajong)
Buam was excellent against Minerva with his pace and trickery
Another gem unearthed from Shillong Lajong, Phrangki Buam’s been a shining light in a relatively dim season for the NorthEast side so far. Buam was in fine form against Minerva Punjab, moving forward with confidence.
He pressed them hard and finally received an opportunity thanks to Deepak Devrani’s mistake, after which he produced a curling finish to score in style. Buam continued to terrorize Minerva with his pace and trickery, proving the ton of potential he’s got.
Right Wing: Surchandra Singh (Real Kashmir)
Surchandra Singh took his rare start with both hands, providing Real Kashmir the attacking edge they had been missing for a few games.
Singh proved to be a terrorizing figure for the young Arrows side with his movement and unpredictability. He leapt onto Robertson’s cross to powerfully score his first of the season. The former Churchill winger was a prolific figure on the right, always trying to create chances and get things going for the Snow Leopards.
Striker: Lalkhawpuimawia (Aizawl FC)
Lalkhawpuimawia restored hope to the Aizawl fans with his super-sub performance against East Bengal, harrowing the Kolkata-side with his attacking moves.
After giving a decent substitute showing against Chennai City, Mapuia looked hungry to make an impact against East Bengal. He came on in the second half with Aizawl looking down and out, but sparked a comeback with his energy. Mapuia scored a peach of a winner, hitting Dodoz’s long-ball first time to stun the away side and earn a precious win for Gift Raikhan’s side.
Center-Forward: Rajesh S (Gokulam Kerala)
The forward has become a fan-favourite in the I-League due to his displays
Rajesh’s amazing surge for the Malabarians continued when he produced another match-winning performance for Gokulam Kerala. He teased the Minerva Punjab defence throughout and broke their stubborn resistence with a fantastic diving header.
He thrived playing in front of a 30k+ home crowd and made himself a fan-favourite with the performance. Rajesh was also lively against Churchill, but couldn’t make it two goals in two against the Red Machines.