The league leaders stumbled but the chasing pack couldn’t pounce…
It was amother enthralling weekend of action in the I-League. Leaders Aizawl slipped up for the first time weeks but with the chasing pack all failing to pounce they increased ytheir lead at the top of the table to three points. Elsewhere Churchill Brothers Vs Shillong Lajong ended goalless while Mumbai FC were tumped by DSK Shivajisaans. Most teams now have four games to play as the league takes a break for international matches. Here’s a look at our team of the week and some of the key takeaways from the games.
1. Aizawl show first signs of stage fright
Top of the table after 13 rounds, Khalid Jamil’s team were running away with the title for many. Come Minerva Punjab FC, league debutants and a team which wasn’t having a great season; Aizawl FC were expected to steamroll over them. But sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Last year’s relegated team Aizawl FC will be blessing their stars as they hold on to their spot after the 14th round. Having played a non-miserly 2-2 draw, it will be shocking for the former Mumbai FC gaffer how his well-drilled side let in two goals. While we still place our bets on Aizawl’s hard-to-breach defense, it remains to be seen whether big match pressure comes to bottle them up in the finishing stages of the competition.
2. Mumbai must make the most of well-timed break
This club has been a sad story if you’re a fan and a laughing stock if you’re a rival. It’s as easy as that. Whenever I write on Mumbai FC, Santosh Kashyap’s infamous “We’ll aim to be in the top 3”, echoes in my mind. The gaffer has, sadly, not been able to keep true to his words and his side is languishing at the bottom of the table.
There are two league debutants this season, and experienced side Mumbai FC have been able to shock them to remain rooted at the bottom of the table, giving them ample confidence and debutant-respectability. Talking about recent club, a captain and two players being sacked, three bought in, a 5-0 drubbing to state-rivals and then, the coach taking a swipe at the largely faithful Yellow Brigade is a sad occurrence, all at once.
If one club needed this break, it is Mumbai FC. More than Santosh Kashyap, it is the management who needs to sit down, assess the status and ask them a question, “Is this how you run a club?” Well, we just hope we get nicer things to say about them soon.
3. Lack of goals detailing Bagan’s title bid
At the start of the I-league season, Mohun Bagan FC, under the guidance of Sanjoy Sen were touted to be favorites with a good team depth. The team began the league on a winning phase, being at the top of the table for 6 rounds. The Mariners have had to play in the AFC Cup since then and that looks to have taken a toll on their shape and preparations.
Against Bengaluru FC in Round 14, the Green-and-Maroons had one off-day in front of the goal. With a constantly firing Katsumi Yusa, Mohun Bagan should’ve scored the one elusive goal which would have given them the three vital points. Arindam Bhattacharya had a great game in Bengaluru’s goal and was rightfully chosen the player of the match. The lack of key goals is surely derailing Mohun Bagan’s campaign.
4. East Bengal none the wiser for lessons from the past
Trevor Morgan, a powerful East Bengal side, a powerful centre-back, a strong Indian contingent and failing to make it big. Is this the first time you’re reading something like this? If you’re into Indian football, I’m sure you are not. This has been one of the main derailing pointers for an ever flattering-to-deceive East Bengal. The Red-and-Golds could have got on top of the table had they defeated league debutants Chennai City FC, but that hasn’t been the trend they’ve always set.
Chennai City beat them 2-1, and goalkeeper TP Rehenesh had a game he wouldn’t even want to dream about! Trevor Morgan will surely need and want a break and thus, the timing comes perfectly.
Aizawl are now on 30 points at the top of the table. East Bengal remain on 27 points after two successive defeats. Arch rivals Bagan have two games in hand but are now seven points off te pace. Chennai climb off joint bottom after their win and Mumbai are now two points adrift at the foot of the table.