A dream start to the league campaign – sixth win on-the-trot; Morgan’s Red & Gold juggernaut is rolling on breaking all the existing records. Kingfisher East Bengal pumped half-a-dozen goals against a helpless Air India outfit to strengthen their top of the table billing and take a six points cushion over second placed Salgaocar side. Skipper Soumik Dey opened up the floodgates against the Airmen in the 11th minute before Tolgay Ozbey added a brace and Robin Singh, Mehtab Hussain, Ravinder Singh chipped in with one goal each. However, Sandip Nandy’s unbeaten run of 511 minutes without conceding a goal in I-League came to an end in the 54th minute of the match, when Air India’s Eric Boiwe scored against the run of play – this is the first goal conceded by the Red & Gold defense in this league edition after maintaining clean-sheets in previous five matches.
Karim Bencharifa’s Salgaocar slumped to their second consecutive loss against Derrick Pereira’s Pune FC, who registered their very first win of the campaign. Clinching all three points from this match, Pune moves up to the 10th spot in the league table with 7 points. Another team to register their first win is Sukhwinder Singh’s JCT FC; the Ludhiana based side managed to scrape past a struggling Viva Kerala outfit 1-0 – thanks to a Maninder Singh goal in the 50th minute.
Mohun Bagan continued their revival battle as they blanked Mumbai FC 2-0 at Yuvabharati Krirangan, Salt Lake. Muritala scored the opener for the Green & Maroons in first half injury time before Asim Biswas doubled the lead with a long range screamer in the 80th minute. After Subhash Bhowmick has taken over the duty at Bagan, they managed to get 2 wins and 1 draw under their belt in last three matches to climb up to the 8th position. AIFF XI also registered their second win; a 2-1 win over HAL SC helped them to clinch the 11th position by the end of round 6.
Newly promoted ONGC FC showed great resistance to snatch one point off Churchill Brothers. The Mumbai based institutional team took a surprise lead through N.D. Opara in the 20th minute, but failed to maintain the lead as Odafa Okolie once again came to the rescue of the Goan team with a perfectly judged free kick in the first half injury time. Churchill remains at the 3rd spot, 8 points behind the league leaders, while ONGC could just move out of the relegation zone by virtue of a better goal difference.
Ex-Dempo goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal returned to Goa in Chirag colours to haunt his former club as an inspirational performance by the veteran custodian earned a valuable point for his side from the Goa trip. Dempo dominated the match right from the word go and after Ranty Martins failed to convert a penalty, Clifton Gonsalves gave the home team an early lead in the first half. However the Kolkata side fought valiantly to snatch one point at the stroke of the final whistle when Joshimar da Silva Martins scored the equalizer for Chirag in the 89th minute.
Star of the Week: Mehtab Hussain (East Bengal)
Indian national team coach Bob Houghton’s decision not to pick the talented midfielder for the national duty is looking like a big blunder with every passing day. The “Double-Cylinder” produced another scintillating performance at the heart of the Red & Gold midfiled pulling the strings of attack against Air India. All the six East Bengal goals have more or less contribution from this reliable play-maker. With 3 assists and 1 goal, Mehtab once again clinches TheHardTackle’s Star of the Week award.
Goal of the Week: Mehtab Hussain (East Bengal)
It’s double delight for the “Double-Cylinder”. Mehtab is the pick for the Goal of the Week award as well for the amazing 35 yards scorcher scored in the 88th minute of the match. Just a few minutes ago, Robin Singh got the marching orders for receiving his second booking and Air India were trying desperately to score another against a 10 men East Bengal side; Mehtab unleashed a thunderous swerving strike on the run from 35 yards out which kissed to inside of the top right corner before going in – arguably one of the best goals scored in this I-League edition so far. Asim Biswas’s goal against Mumbai FC also deserves a mention here – his 80th minute strike was no less than world class !
Save of the Week: Shilton Pal (Mohun Bagan)
Only on the rarest of rare occasions we do get to see the goalkeeper of a team that won the match by a 2-0 margin being awarded the man of the match award. The match between Mohun Bagan and Mumbai FC witnessed it after Shilton Pal produced a number of world class saves to earn all three points for the Green & Maroons. The young ‘keeper denied Mumbai FC clear cut scoring opportunities in the 18th, 32nd, 44th and 63rd minute of the match. The superb reflex save in the 32nd minute deserves special mention here. Shilton, staying true to his name, dived full stretch to his left to pull off a finger-tipped save off Ebi Sukore to keep his side in the game.
The Savior of the Week: Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers)
The most successful striker in the history of I-League was once again at his team’s rescue after Churchill conceded an early goal against ONGC FC. The Nigerian goal-machine played his heart out to score the equalizer just at the stroke of half time to earn his team a valuable point from their trip to Kohlapur. The influence of Odafa on Churchill’s fortunes can be validated from the fact that out of the team’s 11 goals in this campaign, 10 has been scored by the talismatic Nigerian.–
The Race for the Golden Boot Award:
1. Odafa Okolie [Churchill] – 10
2. Tolgay Ozbey [East Bengal] – 6
3. Ryuiji Sueoka [Salgaocar] -5
A whopping 95 goals have been scored from the 42 matches played so far in this season. It’s not surprising to find Odafa on top of the goal scoring chart, however the gap which he has opened up with second placed Tolgay is quite astonishing. Odafa added one more goal to his tally in the match against ONGC, while Tolgay did admirably well to close the gap a little bit by notching up a brace against Air India. Salgaocar Ryuiji Sueoka is in the 3rd position with 5 goals to his name.
East Bengal’s Robin Singh and Dempo’s Clifton Gonsalves lead the scoring chart among the desi boys with 3 goals apiece. Murali J, Anthony Barbosa and Gilbert Oliveira all have 2 goals to their name.
Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Shilton Pal
It’s a difficult choice between Mohun Bagan’s Shilton Pal and Chirag United’s Abhijit Mondal. Both the goalkeepers produced some amazing saves throughout the course of the matches to earn vital points for their team. However, our vote goes to Mohun Bagan’s Shilton Pal for ensuring the clean-sheet and all three points.
Defenders: Naoba Singh, Peter Odafe, Omoloja, Selwyn Fernandes
ONGC’s Peter Odafe, the Nigerian defender, did a commendable job to mark out his country-men Churchill Brothers Odafa Okolie to get his first nomination in TheHardTackle’s Team of the Week. Partnering Peter in the heart of defense will be JCT FC’s Omoloja, who had a brilliant outing against Viva Kerala and was adjudged the official man of the match.
East Bengal Naoba Singh will once again start as the right wing back, while partnering him on the opposite flank will be Pune FC’s Selwyn Fernandes, who not only displayed solid defending, but also capped his brilliant showing by scoring the solitary goal of the match.
Midfielders: Mehtab Hussain, Sunil Kumar, Tirthankar Sarkar, Ishfaq Ahmed
East Bengal’s Mehtab Hussain, our Star of the Week, will have the responsibility of playing the game-maker role in the Team of the Week. AIFF XI’s Tirthankar Sarkar will partner Mehtab in a more advance position. Thirtankar had a fine outing against HAL SC and provided the assist for Malswamfela’s goal.
Pune FC winger Sunil Kumar deserves a place in the starting XI for his amazing attacking display against Salgaocar. Mohun Bagan skipper Ishfaq Ahmed, a natural left winger who had to start as a left back for providing solidity to their depleted defense, delivered a gem of a performance against Mumbai FC. He was involved in most of the Bagan attack with his trademark marauding overlapping runs on the left flank. That’s why Ishfaq is our choice to start on the left side of the midfiled, which is also his favorite position.
Strikers: Tolgay Ozbey, N.D. Opara
East Bengal goal machine Tolgay Ozbey is having a brilliant run in his very first season in Indian football. He has scored six goals in as many matches, including a brace against Air India in this round. ONGC FC dangerman N.D. Opara, who snatched a point for his team in the match against Churchill by scoring a wonderful goal, is our choice to partner the East Bengal striker in the attacking department.
So here’s a final look at our team of the week for round-6:
Shilton – Naoba, Omoloja, Odafe, Selwyn – Mehtab – Sunil, Tirthankar, Ishfaq – Opara, Tolgay.