The I-League has a new leader after 2 months albeit momentarily as Churchill Brothers raced to pole position after Salgaocar dropped points yet again and with it possibly a chance to reclaim their crown after 12 long years. There were only five matches in this round but two of the two teams were in ecstasy while the other two were left with a serious blow to their title and survival aspirations. Churchill Brothers routed HAL 3-0 at the Kantheerva Stadium leaving the Aeronautics men with a huge task of avoiding relegation. They are rooted at the bottom and desperately need to win both their remaining games- against Dempo at home and East Bengal away- which looks next to impossible. Add to that they have the worst home record in the League. Churchill raced to a 2-0 lead inside fifteen minutes after Odafa Okolie and Bineesh Balan scored. Kayne Vincent made it 3-0 in the 87th minute to put the result beyond doubt and inflict a crushing defeat on HAL. They also have the worst goal difference in the league and look to be already relegated.
Air India are a match away from another great escape in yet another season after scoring a priceless 1-0 win over JCT in Kolhapur. Okorogor Praise scored the match winner for the Airmen that puts them a win away from safety-though they will have to beat Dempo in their own backyard on the final day of the season to assure themselves of safety. Here’s what the relegation battle looks like. HAL are almost out of contention for survival and look to be doomed. So, JCT, ONGC and Air India are in danger of falling prey to the final relegation spot. Viva Kerala are also in danger but will possibly survive because of their superior goal difference. JCT have two games in hand and could also survive if they get something out of those two games. So in all likelihood it will come down to ONGC or Air India for the second last spot. ONGC plays Mumbai FC on the final day while Air India play Dempo. This promises to go all down to the wire but on paper ONGC do have a better chance of surviving. However Air India need not look far for inspiration. Just a few months back they annihilated Dempo 4-0 at Kolhapur and are certainly capable of doing the same.
At Kannur Viva Kerala were held to a goalless draw by ONGC that almost ensures safety for the Keralites due to their better goal average. However ONGC will have to wait until the final day to know their fate.
Indian Arrows scored their first win in four games with a 2-1 win over Mumbai FC. Ex-Churcill player Lalrindika Ralte was the hero for Arrows scoring both goals while Kuttimani scored the lone goal for Mumbai FC. Desmond Bulpins boys are poised to finish above the relegation zone and their performance this season has proved many detractors wrong.
In the final game of the round, Salgaocar’s miserable one month continued after they were held to a 2-2 draw against Mohun Bagan at Kolkata. Salgaocar also lost pole position for the first time in two months. Their last five games have ended up with three defeats and a draw and if Salgaocar don’t end up winning the title, Karim will definitely rue the form in the last one month or so. The Mariners took the lead in the 15th minute after Edeh Chidi headed in a pin point cross from Surkumar Singh. But Salgaocar struck back to equalize in the 29th minute after Japanese sensation Ryuji Sueoka burst the net with an on the run shot. Ten minutes later Salgaocar took the lead when young Gilbert Oliveira showed why he is regarded as one of the finds of the season. He dribbled past three defenders and pierced the back of the net to give the green brigade a 2-1 lead at half time. In the second half Chidi’s head came to Bagan’s rescue again after another great cross- this time by Gouranga Dutta- allowed Chuidi to head in from close range past a diving Karanjit Singh.
Star of the Week: Okorogor Praise (Air India)
The Nigerian scored yet another priceless goal for Air India that keeps them in the hunt to avoid relegation. Subhash Kashyap will definitely count on his star striker to get him the goals in their final relegation decider against Dempo at Goa. Praise has been priceless and the coach has been full of praise for this young striker who made his debut in Indian Football this season.
Miss of the Week : Ashim Biswas (Mohun Bagan)
In the 49th minute Ashim Biswas missed a golden chance to equaliose for The Mariners. Chidi after dribbling past a couple of defenders hit the post with his shot. The rebound fell to Ashim Biswas who was just a few yards away from goal. But the former Salgaocar man bungled and put his shot over the bar.
Goal of the Week : Gilbert Oliveira (Salgaocar)
Young Gilbert has improved by leaps and bounds this season and is definitely one pf the contenders for the Young Player of the Year. After receiving the ball from the rioght he dribbled brilliantly past two Bagan defenders and hit a low shot past Shilton Paul top give Salgoacar the lead. His individual brilliance wins him the goal of the week award.
Save of the Week : Bilifang Nazary (ONGC)
If ONGC survive they will definitely have their goalkeeper to thank. Nazary made a stunning diving save off a Charles Dzisah header early in the game too keep his side level and earn a valuable point that gives them a chance at avoiding relegation on the final day of the season.
Race for the Golden Boot:
Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers): 20
Ranti Martins (Dempo): 18
Ryuji Sueoka (Salgaocar) : 16
Tolgay Ozbay (East Bengal) : 13
Yusif Yakubu (Salgaocar) : 13
Kayne Vincent (Churchill Brothers) : 12
Anil Kumar (Viva Kerala) : 11
Mandjou Keita (Pune FC) : 10
Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows) : 9
Team of the Week:
Defenders : Chaeles Dzisah (Viva Kerala), Raju Gaekwad (Indian Arrows), Napolean Singh (Air India), Robert Lalthalma (Churchill BRothers)
Midfielders : Lalrindika Ralte (Indian Arrows), Manjit Singh (Air India), Gilbert Oliveira (Salgaocar)
Strikers : Chidi Edeh (Mohun Bagan), Kayne Vincent (Churchill Brothers), Ryuji Sueoka (Salgaocar)