A series of impressove performances from the domestic contingent across the leagues meant that competition for places was intense.
The chill of winter may be slowly fading away in different parts of the country, but the Indian football scene is heating up as we’re slowly moving into the business end of the season. The Indian Super League sees a very competitive battle for the top four right now, with the southern clubs staking their claims and proving to be difficult to break down.
Minerva Punjab look to be cruising towards their first I-League championship and they impressed once again with a win away to Neroca, who look to be fading away from the title race. There were impressive performances all around in Indian football, with players young and old from the ISL and I-League alike providing some memorable moments and help their clubs get some crucial points.
Subrata Paul pulled off a stunning save with his shin
The experienced Indian goalkeeper is proving to be decisive for Jamshedpur FC this season and had another great night in between goal against ATK last week. The “Spiderman” of Indian Football looked sharp as ever in JFC’s goal, where he comfortably saved the four shots which ATK managed to test him with. Along with that, he also made 2 clearances and looked to be fairly comfortable against ATK, who tried their best to bully him but failed at that. He won the “Moment of the Match” award after the match and his brilliant outing in the ISL this season must be impressive Stephen Constantine.
Souvik Chakrabarti has proved to be a versatile asset for Jamshedpur FC this season and has been key to their strong defense in their inaugural campaign. He churned out another commendable performance against defending champions ATK in the weekend when he looked rock-solid with his defensive duties. Not only did he do his marking duties perfectly, but he made 4 important clearances to save his side from conceding, as well as having a decent passing accuracy of 66%. Souvik seemed in control throughout the game and had a memorable homecoming at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Indian Team of the Week 11
Center-Back: Sukhdev Singh (Minerva Punjab FC)
Sukhdev Singh is turning out to be among the best signings in the I-League this season as he’s made Minerva Punjab a defensive rock and continued his stunning form against Neroca FC last week. In a difficult fixture at the packed Khuman Lapak Stadium, Sukhdev proved why he’s considered as a reputed throw-in taker when he sent in a vicious throw in the 3rd minute, allowing Bali Gagandeep to flick it for Chencho to give Minerva an early lead. He kept the dangerous Felix Chidi quiet throughout the match and led from the front in defense, making sure Punjab get another clean-sheet and take an important step forward in the I-League title race.
Gurtej Singh has been a strong backbone for FC Pune City this season, with the Punjabi Defender churning out solid defensive performances quite consistently in the ISL this season. Gurtej had a tough job in front of him against Jamshedpur FC last week but managed to stand tall and handle Trinidade and Jerry pretty well. His shining moment came in the 62nd minute when he scored a darting header to equalize the game for the Stallions. Gurtej made 4 clearances as well as an important block, but it was the “attacking” aspect of his game which stood out on the day.
A serious contender for the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award, young Lalruatthara has shown impeccable consistency in the left-back role for Kerala Blasters this season. He continued his form against the dangerous Delhi Dynamos, who made things really difficult for Kerala throughout the game. But that didn’t affect Lalruatthara, who gave a commendable performance in the back and made 6 crunching tackles to stop Delhi from entering the box. He also made 5 clearances, which turned out to be decisive as Kerala completed a stunning come-back and got 3 vital points in the end.
Adil Khan has been FC Pune City’s dark knight many times this season and he continued being so when they needed a defensive masterclass against the in-form Jamshedpur FC last week. Khan looked very comfortable and strong defensively for Pune, despite JFC piling on the pressure in the first half. He definitely improved in the 2nd half and had an overall solid game for FC Pune City, making 5 clearances and an important interception as well. Adil also made 3 blocks, one being especially amazing as it was a goal-line clearance, which proved to be vital in the Stallions getting another win at home.
Seiminlen Doungel has been the spark which has influenced NorthEast United’s recent turn-around in a form in the ISL and while they couldn’t get the job done against table-toppers Bengaluru FC, Doungel continued impressing for them. The young winger gave Bengaluru’s defenses a lot of problems with his movement and ability with the ball, as he created a very good chance for the Highlanders. Doungel gave Subhashish Bose a tough time and earned a penalty for his side, which Marcinho converted. He later had a shot on target as well and looked very bright despite not getting any points against the Blues.
Negi scored the equaliser against Dynamos this weekend
Kerala Blasters needed something different to prevail against the resurgent Delhi Dynamos last week and when David James subbed in Deepandra Negi, not many would’ve expected the impact he made on the day. Negi proved to be a super-sub for the Blasters and scored 2 minutes after coming on the field, scoring a powerful header to equalize the game for them. He later turned provider when he won earned the penalty for Blasters, which Iain Hume duly converted. The 19-year-old became an instant hero in front of the Manjapadda, giving a performance no Blasters fan in the stadium was going to forget.
Raynier Fernandes has consistently featured in the Mohun Bagan and has looked really good in midfield for them during their highs and lows alike. Fernandes was in for a tough fight away to defending champions Aizawl FC last week, but he did really well to boss around midfield and complimented Cameron Watson pretty well too. Fernandes was much more attack minded against Aizawl and sprayed some really impressive balls forward to Akram Moghrabi. He created quite a few chances for the Mariners on the day and proved how good his attacking qualities are by constantly creating attacking moves for Bagan and playing some positive football on the day.
Balwant Singh slides in and sends the ball home!
Balwant Singh had to deal with some criticism prior to Mumbai City’s trip to FC Goa last week, with some criticizing Singh for his goal-drought over the month or so. But Balwant seemed adamant at silencing his critics against FC Goa, as he looked extremely dangerous in the most entertaining game of the season. Balwant took 5 shots on goal, with 3 of them being on target as he tested the keeper regularly throughout the match. His moment of glory came late in the game when he incredibly scored the winner, which was a bit lucky but the hard-working striker deserved it. The goal gave Mumbai 3 crucial points and set their campaign back on track, as they look to give a late charge for the play-offs spot.
After having a goal-less campaign in the ISL last season, Sunil Chhetri cannot stop scoring for Bengaluru FC in their inaugural ISL season. Chhetri has been absolutely brutal in front of goal and has scored some amazing goals so far and he continued his stunning goal-scoring form against NorthEast United FC. Captain Fantastic handled Harmanjot Khabra’s cross really well and scored with a sweet left-footed finish in the second half to win another match for the Blues. Chhetri’s terrific, hard-working performances prove why he’s still considered as the best in Indian football and is leading from the front as the highest scoring Indian in the ISL this season.