After the completion of 5th round matches, Kingfisher East Bengal scales the summit in I-League standings winning all five opening games. A win over the 4th round pole sitters Salgaocar SC brings the Kolkata giants back on top of the I-League standings. Karim Bencharifa’s Salgaocar outfit, who had won their previous four matches, had to settle for the second position after their 5th round loss.
Churchill Brothers climbs to the third position, thanks to a injury time penalty by Odafa Okolie which earned them a draw against Viva Kerala at Margaon. Mumbai FC suffered their second straight loss – this time against defending Champions Dempo SC – and had to settle for the fourth spot in the latest standings.
Elsewhere, Mohun Bagan registered their first win of the campaign at Ludhina, defeating home team JCT FC by a solitary goal scored by Manish Mathani. The Red & Maroon brigade finds themselves in the 8th position in the league table at the moment. Chirag United registered their second win in this league edition against HAL SC, Bangalore and moves up to the sixth spot, breathing on the neck of Dempo SC. AIFF XI, the future India national team, tasted their first success in the top tier football as they came out triumphant against a struggling Air India outfit. The match between ONGC and Pune FC ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Star of the Week: Mehtab Hussain (East Bengal)
The “double-cylinder”, who is enjoying a rich vein of form this season, was once again at his very best playing the deep-lying play-maker role stringing attacks after attacks against Salgaocar. He authoritatively commanded the reigns of the midfield battle and always kept the supply of dangerous through balls for his strikers to poach in. It was one of such inch perfect passes which found Robin Singh inside the Salgaocar box, who in-turn cleverly bypassed the ball to an unmarked Tolgay Obzey to score the solitary goal of the match. East Bengal could have registered a bigger win, but a lack of finishing from the “Tolly-Rolly” striker duo, who squandered half a dozen easy opportunities, made the Red & Golds to settle only for a 1-0 win.
Mehtab could have found his name on the score-sheet, however his 18th minute strike from a long range was acrobatically saved by Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit Singh. His team-mates paid tribute to the newly turned father by celebrating the goal intimating the famous Bebeto cradle rock; running to the sideline, bringing their arms together – just like cradle rocking an imaginary baby.
Goal of the Week: Beto (Dempo SC)
It was a stunning strike by the veteran dead ball specialist. The 0-0 dead-lock had not been broken by that time around the hour mark when Dempo got a free kick from around 20 yards out against Mumbai FC. Beto stepped in and delivered a sensational ball with surgeon’s precision to give his side a deserving lead. He fired his shot on the top right corner which seemed to be going over the woodwork before curling in and dipping at the very last moment to leave the Mumbai FC goalkeeper flabbergasted. Someone should send a clip of this goal to the renowned film-maker Gurinder Chadha and we may get to watch another block-buster named as “Bend It Like Beto”.
Save of the Week: Laxmikant Kattimani (Dempo SC)
In the dying moments of the match with Dempo leading by a goal, Mumbai FC intensified their attack in a bid to find the equalizer; Laxmikanth came to his side’s rescue with a fabulous double save. First he dived to his left to save an Ebi Sukore effort; but the danger was not averted yet, a faulty clearance allowed S. Kuttymani to launch a right footed bullet at the Dempo goal. But Kattimani, who has been massively criticized for his lackluster display in earlier matches, was equal to the task and produced a world class save to deny Kuttymani his moment of glory, thus earning valuable three points for his team.
Quote of the Week: Trevor James Morgan (East Bengal)
The British coach was all praise for his boys after their dominant win against Karim Bencharifa’s Salgaocar outfit – as the win saw them clinch three points to go on top of the league table. In his post match interview he made a stunning revelation when asked to name the side who can stop this East Bengal juggernaut,
“The team that can beat us is ourselves only, because if we play with the same spirit and determination that we have shown so far, it will be nearly impossible for any side to beat us this season”.
The remark speaks volume about the confidence the Gaffer has in his players and the players are doing everything flawlessly to justify such praiseworthy remarks.
The Kolkata vs Goa Battle of Supremacy:
The round-5 witnessed one of the eagerly anticipated Kolkata vs Goa battles as the two teams on top of league table clashed with one another. The match was a crucial one for both the sides, not only because the result would have decided the top billing; but also because of the fact that it rekindled the bitter Kolkata-Goa rivalry. With Goan side winning two of the four Kolkata-Goa derby matches played so far in this edition, while Mohun Bagan-Dempo produced a draw and one win for East Bengal against Dempo; the onus was on East Bengal to settle the scores against Salgaocar.
Trevor James Morgan’s team dominated the proceedings right from the word go. They had maintained the lion’s share of ball possession and attacked Salgaocar defense in numbers. Salgaocar mainly relied on quick counter attacks through both the wings. The sheer dominance of the Kolkata outfit can be asserted from the fact that they had 15 shots on goal compared to their rivals 3. East Bengal goalkeeper Sandip Nandy had only 1 decent save to make, while Karanjit had to be on top of his game to make at least 5 brilliant stops.
East Bengal intensified their attack in the second half after their first half dominance could not produce any goals; but they had to settle for only a solitary goal win as their strikers wasted a number of simple scoring opportunities. The only goal of the match was scored by Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey in the 60th minute; who has taken his scoring tally to four goals from five matches played so far. Red & Gold goalkeeper Sandeep Nandy, who has kept a record clean-sheet for the five consecutive matches so far, remains the only goal-keeper yet to concede a goal in this edition.
East Bengal 1–0 Salgaocar – goal, highlights, celebration, post match interviews
Team India Calling : Sandip Nandy (East Bengal), Joaquim Abrahanches (Dempo SC)
Setting up an unprecedented benchmark for East Bengal without conceding even a single goal in the I-League edition so far, the former India no.1, Sandip Nandy, immediately received an SOS from the national coach Bob Houghton to join the Indian national team camp for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup. It remains to be seen whether the Kolkata club releases their first choice goalkeeper for the national duty as Sandip does not belong to the initial squad of 37 players who have been registered for this prestigious competition. Sandip, the winner of prestigious LG ASEAN Cup 2003 with East Bengal, has last attended the national team camp prior to the 2008 SAFF games where he twisted his knee and was sidelined for more than a year before making a complete recovery and joining back his childhood club, East Bengal.
Dempo winger Joaquim Abrahanches, who had a good outing with the national team in recently concluded Guangzhou Asian Games, has also received the national call-up as a cover for the injured Anthony Perreira. Anthony is struggling with an achilles tendon tear and he is expected to miss the Asia Cup campaign.
The Comeback Kings: Pune FC
Pune FC once again showed brilliant fighting spirit to claw their way back into the match against newly promoted ONGC FC outfit. Despite conceding an early goal in the 32nd minute, they never gave up chasing and snatched one point with a last-gasp equalizer through Guinean striker Mondjou Keita. Incidentally Pune FC’s club crest has a connection with the great Maratha warrior Shivaji and the players demonstrated the same belligerent attitude to stage another riposte for which the Maratha king was famous for. Derrick Perreira’s boys have shown similar fight-back against Mohun Bagan in their opening encounter, and repeated the same story against Viva Kerala and Chirag United in subsequent matches as well.
Churchill Brothers also staged a dramatic comeback as they held Viva Kerala for an 1-1 draw. Odafa Okolie scored from the spot in injury time after one of the Viva defenders was sent off for a deliberate foul inside the penalty area.
The Race for the Golden Boot Award:
1. Odafa Okolie [Churchill] – 9
2. Ryuiji Sueoka [Salgaocar] -5
3. Elija Junior [Chirag], Tolgay Ozbey [East Bengal] – 4
Odafa consolidated his position in the scoring chart with another goal to his name against Viva Kerala. Salgaocar’s Japanese midfielder Ryuji Sueoka continues to remain second behind the Churchill talisman scoring 5 goals. Chirag’s Junior Obagbemiro and East Bengal’s Tolgay Ozbey shares the third spot with 4 goals apiece.
Among the Indian strikers Murali J, Clifton Gonsalves, Robin Singh, Anthony Barbosa and Gilbert Olivera have all scored 2 goals each. They are tied on the 6th position in the chart.
Team of the Week:
Salgaocar’s Karanjit Singh, who made a number of world class saves against East Bengal, gets his first cap in the “Team of the Week” nominations. East Bengal’s Uga Okpara, the official man of the match against Salgaocar, will be partnering Chirag United’s Arnab Mondal in the heart of the defense. TheHardTackle’s first choice right back will be East Bengal’s Naoba Singh, whereas for the left back slot Mohun Bagan’s Dhanarajan fits the bill perfectly.
Mehtab Hussain will continue to string the attacks playing this trademark deep-lying play-maker role. Beto, who scored from an outstanding set piece against Mumbai FC will partner Mehtab as an attacking midfielder. AIFF XI’s Shilton D’Silva, who is actually a natural central midfielder, did admirably well against Air India playing on the left side of the pitch and scoring the opener for his side. Shilton earns his first cap in the weekly team to shoulder the left winger’s responsibility. Partnering him on the right flank will again be East Bengal’s Sanju Pradhan. Sanju has been a revelation under Trevor Morgan and has always looked like a livewire on the pitch for the Red & Gold brigade providing teasing crosses in to the opposition box.
This round has not been very productive for the goal scorers as it witnessed a meager total of 11 goals. ONGC FC’s N.D. Opara, whom Derrick Pereira had labeled as the danger-man before the match against Pune FC, scored a fabulous goal for the Mumbai based institutional team. He will be partnering East Bengal’s Tolgay Ozbey in the attacking zone. Tolgay also scored his team’s only goal of the match against Salgaocar and continued to torrid the defenders with his amazing speed and ball control. He was unfortunate not to score another one, as Karanjit Singh made a spontaneous reaction save to deny the Australian from a close range a couple of minutes before the half time whistle.