Round-17 witnessed a host of draws, four to be precise, and also saw Bangalore-based institutional side HAL SC conjure up their first win in this edition of the I-League. Other than HAL, only Mohun Bagan and Air India managed to register a win in this round, thus the slight slip-up from Dempo and East Bengal, who could only garner a solitary point from their respective matches, went unpunished.
In the opening match of Round-17, a struggling Mohun Bagan outfit managed to score two second half goals and collected all three points against the Pailan Arrows outfit. Subrata Bhattacharya’s side had to taste defeats in the last couple of matches, and it was a much-needed victory for the former Champions. After a dull first forty five minutes of play, evergreen Jose Barreto converted a Hudson Lima corner to open the account for Mariners five minutes after the hour mark, before youngster Jewel Raja ensured them of all three points with a strike ten minutes later. Despite this win, the Green-&-Maroons could not leapfrog any of the top-3 teams – who all managed only a single point each in round-17 – and are currently slotted in 4th position. Arrows remain rooted to the penultimate position with just 7 points in their kitty.
The Kolkata-Goa supremacy battle between 3rd placed Churchill Brothers and second placed East Bengal ended in a 1-1 stalemate at PJN Stadium, Fatorda. Herny Antchouet gave the home team an early lead, but the Red-&-Golds restored parity eight minutes after the change of ends through Tolgay Ozbey. It was an incident packed game which saw two well struck efforts, one each by either of the teams, being denied by the woodwork. First Lenny Rodrigues’ booming drive rebounded off the post in the 20th minute and then Tolgay Ozbey was unlucky as his left footer ricocheted off the post to crash into the side-netting, twelve minutes from time.
Prayag United SC would be disappointed with their share of one point against nine-man Sporting Clube de Goa. A 88th minute strike by James Moga was enough for Sporting to snatch a point off the Kolkata based club as the entertaining match ended in a 2-2 stalemate. Incidentally, it was the Flaming Oranjes who stunned the home team at Yuvabharati Krirangan and took a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute. Prayag staged a remarkable comeback in the second half and struck two quick goals in 48th and 52nd minute to take a 2-1 advantage before Moga decided to spoil the party for Sanjay Sen’s boys two minutes from time. Jovel Martins and Adil Khan received marching orders for Sporting in this eventful encounter.
Sandesh Gadkari’s 5th minute strike earned all three points for Santosh Kashyap’s men against their city-rivals Mumbai FC. Air India have now collected 24 points and find themselves seated comfortably at the 9th spot, while Mumbai FC’s slump towards the relegation battle continues with yet another loss – their 11th of the season.
Playing at the uncomfortable altitude of Shillong, Pune FC stayed true to their “comeback kings” tag and secured a valuable point in that 1-1 draw against Lajong FC. After an unproductive first half, Seikhohau Tuboi put the home team ahead in the 52nd minute, before Mandjou Keita brought things back on level terms 20 minutes later. The Red Lizards from Pune are now slotted at the 7th spot with 28 points, while the North Eastern outfit continues to be in the 10th spot 10 points adrift of their Round-17 opponents.
Struggling Aircraftsmen recorded their first victory of the season against Chirag United Kerala away from home. An early goal by Malemnganba Meitei gave the visitors a surprise lead in the sixth minute before misfiring Nigerian striker Abdulla Hamza scored a rare goal two minutes from time to notch up a welcome but deserved win for the Bangalore-based institutional outfit. However, even this win could not propel them from rock bottom position in the league standings. Collecting just 6 points so far, they are still occupying the last position, one point adrift of 13th placed Pailan Arrows.
Both sides squandered a number of goal-scoring opportunities and the eagerly anticipated Goan Derby between Dempo and Salgaocar ended in a goal-less stalemate. Salgaocar were better of the two sides in the first half and dictated terms till the change of ends. Dempo came back strong in the second half and controlled the proceedings till the final minute of play but a misfiring Ranti Martins failed to trouble the scorers. For Salgaocar, Japanese recruit Ryuiji Sueoka missed at-least a couple of golden chances from handshaking distance and both the teams had to share the spoils in the end.
Star of the Week:
Pramod P (HAL SC)
The Aircraftsmen should be grateful to their goalkeeper cum skipper Pramod P for securing their first victory of the season against against Chirag Kerala. He stood like the rock of Gibraltar between the sticks and made a number of crucial saves to earn all three points for the struggling Bangalore side.
Goal of the Week:
Sandesh Gadkari (Air India)
As early as the fifth minute of the Mumbai Derby between Air India and Mumbai FC, Sandesh Gadkari got hold of a loose ball on the right wing and moved up. On an overlapping run, he managed to catch the Mumbai FC defense off-guard and fired a 45 degree angled left footer from inside the right side of the box which flummoxed MFC goalkeeper Nidhinlal and found the back of the net.
Miss of the Week:
Ranti Martins (Dempo SC)
At the fag end of the Goan Derby between Dempo and Salgaocar, Koko Sakibo did extremely well to fox a couple of Salgaocar defenders on the left and sent a slanting through-ball towards unmarked Ranti Martins inside the D. However, the Nigerian hit-man, who would usually burry 10 out of 10 such opportunities, made a mess of the simplest tap in.
Save of the Week:
Subhashish Roy Chowdhury (Dempo SC)
The Indian international continued his superb form under the woodwork with some stunning saves against arch-rivals Salgaocar SC. His best and perhaps the most crucial save of the match came at the fag end, when a fierce long range scorcher from Edeh Chidi was superbly kept out of the Dempo goal-line by the outstretched arm of this talented stop-stopper.