What a thrilling round-7 it has turned out to be. At long long last, Trevor Morgan’s near invincible East Bengal side has been stopped in its tracks, albeit momentarily, by Khalid Jamil’s young turks. Mumbai FC ended The Red & Golds perfect start to the season by holding them to a 1-1 draw at the Sahu Maharaj ground at Kolhapur. After winning their first six games on the trot and sweeping away all sides in their path, East Bengal did look invincible. And it looked like game seven could add to their tally of seven wins after Nigerian defender Okpara’s snapshot gave them the lead after 18 minutes. But burly Mumbai FC striker Henry Ezeh breached the East Bengal fortress with 15 minutes to go. It was only the second goal that East Bengal have conceded this season. Mumbai FC could have even won it in the end had Dane Pereira not missed a sitter. Khalid Jamil will definitely be pleased by the way his season is shaping up. They are in sixth position with ten points from seven games, level with Chirag United.
A century of goals for the Nigerian goal machine. Yes that’s right! Odafa Onyeka Okolie scored his one hundredth goal in I-League as he fired five goals in the same match to help Churchill Brothers route AIFF XI 6-0 at Fatorda. This included his hundredth goal in the NFL/I-League putting him just one goal behind Ghanaian Yusif Yakubu’s tally of 102 goals. Interestingly all his goals have been scored for the same team – Churchill Brothers. His five goals against AIFF took his tally to an incredible 15 goals from 7 matches this season. Churchill Brothers are still in third position six points behind table topper East Bengal.
Another Man of the Match performance by Brazilian magician Roberto Mendes Da Silva gave Dempo their third win of the season. Beto first assisted fit again India U-23 captain Joaquim Abranches to a goal in the 8th minute, and then added his name to the score sheet by notching his third goal of the season in the 37th minute. ONGC are shipping in troubled waters as they are yet to register a win in this campaign.
Winless Viva Kerala handed Subhas Bhowmick his first defeat as the Mariners slumped to a 2-0 loss at the Municipal Stadium, Kannur. It was a woeful display by the Bagan defence which conceded a goal as early as the 11th minute. Without Edeh Chidi in the side, Bagan found it difficult to find the equalizer. Spurred on by their supporters, Viva Kerala got their second in the 73rd minute through Anil Kumar.
Salgaocar consolidated second position with a Luciano Sabrosa goal giving them a 1-0 win at Bangalore. An injury plagued HAL side disappointed the home fans who had gathered in large numbers to witness Bangalore’s first I-League match in three years. Elsewhere Chirag United produced an insipid performance against JCT at home, being held to a 0-0 draw. Air India-Pune FC match also finished in a stalemate.
Star of The Week: Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers)
He’s on another different level altogether. When he’s on the pitch one gets the impression of a big bully toying his way with the kids. An incredible five goal blitz makes the Nigerian the star of the week. Its no surprise then, that Churchill Alemao has made him the highest paid player in India this season. 15 of Churchill’s 17 goals this season have been scored by him. With Odafa in the side, Churchill look completely different and menacing. He has definitely been the best foreigner to have played in India in recent years. Two more goals for him against Yakubu’s Salgaocar in the next game could make him the highest scorer in NFL/I-League history overtaking the veteran Ghanaian.
Goal of the Week: Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers)
Five star Odafa produced the goal of the week with a stunning free kick from outside the box, after Bineesh Balan was brought down in the 82nd minute. Odafa unleashed an unstoppable drive after finding a gaping hole in the AIFF wall that thundered into the net giving the AIFF keeper absolutely no chance. Incidentally that was his 100th goal as well.
Save Of The Week: Pramod P (HAL SC)
HAL should thank their ‘keeper Pramod for coming out with a respectable 0-1 score-line in their 7th round defeat against Salgaocar. The young keeper produced few brilliant saves albeit with the help of a little luck, as the woodwork came to his rescue time and again. Pramod’s best effort came in the 70th minute of the match when Yakubu’s penalty was saved by his quick reflex reaction to stretch out his right leg after he had committed to jump in the other direction. Then again a few minutes later he dined Ryuiji Sueoka with a slendid acrobatic save.
The Saviour of the Week: Karma T (Viva Kerala)
Karma T produced a Man of the Match performance to give struggling Viva Kerala their first win of the season in front of their home supporters. Karma scored in the 10th minute and then had a hand in the other goal scored by Anil Kumar in the 73rd minute. Karma’s superb performance moved Viva Kerala to ninth position just behind Mohun Bagan.
The Race for the Golden Boot Award:
Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers): 15
Tolgay Ozbey( East Bengal ): 6
Ryuji Seouka (Salgaocar) : 5
Only seven matches into the season and the race for the golden boot already looks done and dusted. Odafa has opened up a huge gap at the top and it will take something extraordinary and special effort from the rest of the chasing pack to displace him from the podium. Tolgay and Ryuji failed to add to their tally giving Odafa a nine goal lead going into round 8.
Team Of the Week
Goalkeeper: Shahinlal (Viva Kerala)
Viva Kerala’s goalkeeper was up to the mark against two quality foreigners in Muritala Ali and Jose Barreto. After going down early in the match, Bagan surged forward in search of the equalizer but were denied by superb goalkeeping from Shahinlal.
Defenders: Naoba Singh (East Bengal), Bello Rasaq (Viva Kerala), Luciano Sabrosa (Salgaocar), Robert Lalthalma (Churchill Brothers)
Nigerian Bello Rasaq stood like a rock for Viva Kerala thwarting every move of Barreto and Muritala. His partner, the other Viva stopper back Charles Dzisah also had a splendid game and would have been in the team but Luciano’s headed goal gave him the edge. At right back is Naoba Singh after another solid performance while Robert Lalthalma produced a good performance for Churchill against AIFF earning him a place in the defence line-us as the left back. His overlapping was good and link up play with the attack was outstanding.
Midfielders: Okpara (East Bengal), Beto (Dempo), Zakeer (Churchill Brothers), Dane Pereira (Mumbai FC)
MP Zakeer and Dane Pereira make it to the team of the week on the back of their solid performances. The hard working Dane Pereira worked hard from midfield often coming behind to help his defenders and also moving forward to help in attack. Former Viva Kerala lad MP Zakeer’s performance against AIFF may have been overshadowed by Odafa, but there’s no denying him a place in the team of the week. Zakeer often switched flanks with ease crossing well with both feet. He created plenty of chances for Odafa and also helped himself to a goal. Okpara though predominantly a defender, could be used as the holding midfielder in the team. His ability to get goals will be an added advantage. Beto will play the role of a playmaker in the midfield providing passes for the strikers.
Strikers: Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brohers), Joaquim Abranches (Dempo)
Not surprisingly Odafa finds himself in the team of the week. Alongside him is the hard working Joaquim Abranches who has made his way back to Dempo line-up after missing the previous games due to injury. Abranches is the perfect foil for Odafa, doing plenty of running about and creating space for the Nigerian.
So here’s the final look at the “Team Of the Wek – Round 7” –
Shahinlal – Naoba singh, Bello Rasaq, Luciano Sabrosa, Robert Lalthlma – Okpara – MP Zakeer, Beto, Dane Pereira – Odafa Okolie, Joaquim Abranches.