After a sudden halt in the seventh round, when they drew against Mumbai FC, Trevor Morgan’s Red-&-Gold brigade returned back on track to notch up their seventh victory of the campaign and consolidate their position at the summit of the league standings. Up against a stub-born Pune FC defence, East Bengal produced a clinical performance to come out 1-0 winners – thanks to a Tolgay Ozbey goal just after the hour mark. The 1-0 score-line sounds a bit flattering in favor of the Pune side, as woodwork came up to their rescue on not less than four occasions, otherwise it could well have resembled a tennis score-sheet. Penn Orji completed a hat-trick in hitting the post, while Tolgay wasted an open net by firing the ball against the cross piece in the dying minutes.
Dempo missed an opportunity to close the gap with league leaders as they were held to a 1-1 draw by the AIFF XI boys. Ranty Martins wasted a spot kick in the early minutes before Shilton D’Silva gave Desmond Bulpin’s boys a surprise lead in the 10th minute. However Ranty Martins redeemed himself around the half-an-hour mark when he scored the equalizer for the Goan side. Dempo tried to break the resilient AIFF defence for the reminder of the match, but the future India boys showed great fighting spirit to snatch a point from this tie.
Mumbai FC showed the sign of revival in the last round when they fought valiantly to hold Red-&-Gold juggernaut for a draw and they continued their revival with a fine 2-0 home win over Viva Kerala. JCT FC registered three vital points in a bottom of the table clash as they saw off ONGC at Ludhiana by 1-0. Air India vs HAL SC match ended in a 1-1 draw. Mohun Bagan lost their second successive match as Chirag United got the better of their local rivals in the first Kolkata Derby of the I-League season – thanks to a Joshimar strike in the 86th minute.
Elsewhere at Margaon the most entertaining match of the round was played between Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers; this was also arguably the best match of the season so far. Amidst a packed Fatorda crowd, vuvuzelas in the background and continuous cheering by vocal fans, Karim Bencharifa’s men came out triumphant in the Goan Derby as they clinched the goal-scoring thriller by 4-3 margin. Churchill drew the first blood when Vincent made it past Karanjit to make it 1-0 in the 23rd minute. It took only six minutes for Karim’s lads to score the equalizer as Jaspal’s free-kick got defelected off the Churchill wall and went inside over goal line. Within five minutes, Salgaocar captain led by example to score with a wonderful header to make it 2-1. In the very next minute, Sueoka produced a beauty as Salgaocar took a commanding 3-1 lead. But Churchill did not lose heart and Durga Boro reduced the deficit to 3-2 within a couple of minutes. However, the drama was not over yet. Yakubu was brought down in the penalty box and the referee did not hesitate to point to the spot. But Lalit Thapa acrobatically saved the spot kick taken by Ryuiji Sueoka. Moments later another mad challenge earned Salgaocar another penalty and this time Sueoka made no mistake to make it 4-2 ahead of the lemon break. A spirited Churchill made it 3-4 by capitalizing on a defensive error, however, in the end gritty defending ensured Karim’s men all three points from this top of the table clash.
Star of the Week: Tomba Singh (Salgaocar)
The Salgaocar play-maker was at his very best pulling the strings of attack with his excellent ball control and pin point deliveries. The Manipuri delivered one of the most vital performances of his career and run the show from the Salgaocar midfield. He also provided assists for two of his team’s goals and bagged the official man of the match award.
Goal of the Week: Ryuiji Sueoka (Salgaocar)
Salgaocar’s third goal of the match was scored through a stunning strike by the Japanese midfielder. Francis Fernandes set him up with a fine delivery from the right wing. Sueoka unleashed a volley on the run from the edge of the Churchill box which beat Lalit Thapa all ends up before crashing into the back of the net. Undoubtedly one of the best goals the viewers would see in the league this season. It’s unfortunate that AIFF has failed to ensure a live telecast partner for showing these amazing moments.
Save of the Week: Lalit Thapa (Churchill Brothers)
Churchill were down 3-2 when they conceded a needless penalty just at the stroke of half time. Salgaocar’s top scorer of the season, Ryuiji Sueoka stepped up to take the spot kick. However, Churchill Brothers goalkeeper Lalit Thapa anticipated it perfectly to acrobatically dive in the right direction and pull off an amazing save. Although, ultimately he ended up conceding 4 goals, Thapa was impressive under the bar for the Goan giants and ensured that his team remained in the game till the final whistle.
Miss of the Weak: Penn Orji (East Bengal)
The Nigerian failed to convert three pretty straight-forward chances. In the 5th minute of the match, he was in an one-on-one situation with only the Pune FC goalkeeper Balaji to beat, but he manged to hit the post instead. With 10 minutes remaining for the final whistle, the skillful Nigerian dodged past two PFC defenders, but his luck continued to betray him as the ball beat the goalkeeper only to be ricocheted off the near post. Then again in the final minute of regulation time, he did the unthinkable – failed to put the ball in an open net from just six yards out. It seemed like he was on a mission impossible. Penn would hope that it was an one-off day and would try to forget the blunders as soon as possible.
The Race for the Golden Boot Award:
Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers) – 15
Tolgay Ozbey (East Bengal) – 7
Ryuiji Sueoka (Salgaocar) -7
Odafa Okolie, currently on top of the scoring chart with 15 goals to his name, failed to add to his tally as he had to be taken off in the 26th minute of the match after colliding with Salgaocar’s Sueoka. Sueoka added couple of goals to his tally to share the second spot along with East Bengal’s Tolgay Ozbey, who scored their only goal of the match against Pune FC.
Quite expectantly, the Indian players have failed to match their foreign counterparts in scoring department and the best an Indian striker has mustered till now is 3 goals – which places East Bengal’s Robin Singh and Dempo’s Cliffton Gonsalves in the 5th position in the overall scoring chart.
TheHardTackle’s Team of the Week:
Goalkeeper: Shilton Pal (Mohun Bagan)
A youngster from a sub-urban town of Maslandpur in the state of West Bengal is continuing to perform brilliantly for the Green-&-Maroon brigade. Born to a family with a traditional football culture, he was named after a famous goalkeeper, his father’s favorite football player of that time. The boy is living up to his name – “Shilton” – and is proving to be the only saving grace for the insipid Mohun Bagan outfit. With yet another fabulous performance, Shilton Paul gets our nomination to guard the post for TheHardTackle’s Team of the Week.
Defenders: Naoba Singh (East Bengal), Uga Okpara (East Bengal), Deepak Devrani (AIFF XI), Narugopal Haite (Chirag)
It’s nearly impossible to compose the best XI without picking up the talented Manipuri right-back Naoba Singh. Playing for the Red-&Gold brigade, Naoba has been a revelation in this season and he picks himself up automatically to shoulder the responsibility of playing as the right wing back. Naoba’s partner in crime, Uga Okpara, gets the credit for helping his side keep another clean-sheet, their 6th in this campaign, and will play at the centre of the defence. AIFF XI’s Deepak Devrani, the official man of the match against Dempo, who helped the future Indian boys to snatch a point off the defending champions, will partner Okpara in the center of defence. Chirag United’s young left back Narugopal Haite was solid in defending and impressive in overlapping against Mohun Bagan. He deserves his first cap in this Team of the Week.
Midfielders: Shilton D’Silva (AIFF XI), Ryuiji Sueoka (Salgaocar), Tomba Singh (Salgaocar), Lalkamal Bhowmick (Chirag), Israil Gurung (Churchill)
It will be a five men midfield to represent the Team of the Week – Episode 8. AIFF XI’s Shilton D’Silva, a versatile player capable of playing as a central midfielder and also on the wings, will give width to the attack on the right flank. Churchill’s Israil Gurung, who scored the second goal for his team against Salgaocar, will partner Shilton on the opposite flank.
Tomba Singh, who ran the show for Karim Bencharifa’s side against Churchill, was at his very best playing the role of a creator. He will be partnered by Ryuiji Sueoka in the heart of the park. Lalkamal Bhowmick, who received the official man of the match award for Chirag in their last four matches, deserves the due credit and he will be playing as the other midfielder in the three-men central midfield.
Forward: Kayne Vincent (Churchill Brothers)
The newly signed New Zealand striker, who represented his country in under-19 level, performed impressively in the game against Salgaocar, in the absence of their star striker Odafa, and bagged a brace for himself. He drew the first blood in the 23rd minute and then went on to add another by capitalizing on a Salgaocar defensive lapse in the 66th minute. Vincent gets rewarded for his brilliant display and he will feature as a lone striker in our Team of the Week.