After the end of I-League Round four, Dempo, Pailan Arrows and East Bengal are the only unbeaten teams. Dempo shared points with East Bengal in last round and finds themselves on top of the table with 10 points, Roberto Silva and Akram Moghrabi inspired Churchil made a jump to the second spot, 1 point adrift of the leaders. Pailan Arrows and East Bengal occupies the next slots with their unbeaten run so far.

Goan giants Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar renew their rivalry in a marquee encounter at the Fatorda. In another intriguing battle dark horses Pailan Arrows and Pune FC takes on each other in Kolkata . Ranti Martins is scoring goals for fun but that didn’t secure the job for Prayag United coach Sanjoy Sen and he resigned yesterday to make way for a Director of Football-Coach system in the Galacticos world. Round Five pits them against newcomers United Sikkim who will be playing their first away game of the season. TheHardTackle takes a look at all the seven matches of Round 5 to be played on the 9th and 10th of November.

ONGC FC vs Mohun Bagan AC

9th November, Ambedkar Stadium, Delhi

ONGC find themselves in relegation spot after just 1 point from 4 matches. The last loss against Air India puts them in a spot of bother early in the season. The match produced a flurry of goals and it was one of those entertainers the crowd would like to watch. The absence of Bijoy Gurung and Eric Brown was felt in ONGC set up during their loss against the airmen. The fighting spirit shown by the institutional side in the second half despite going down by 3 goals shows plenty of promise and they were able to hit back 2 goals to make the match more interesting. Even-though they lost in the end, the resilience and determination deserves special applause. Delhi based side need to replicate their second half performance if they are to retain a spot in the top division for next year. Captain Jatin Bisht and Katsumi Yusa needs more support from their team-mates if they dreams of upsetting the Kolkata giants.

Mohun Bagan AC has turned things around after their disappointing start to the season. They are visiting Delhi on backdrop of two consecutive wins and will be eying one more in this visit. A tactical change in formation due to the absence of Tolgay Obzey has reinvented Odafa Okolie in hot form. Odafa ran the show against Sporting Clube with a brilliantly taken hat-trick and he seems to love the lone striker role more than anything. If he is able to replicate the same form Mohun Bagan will be happy to continue with the lone striker formulae. With a good Indian crew in the form of Syed Rahim Nabi, Nirmal Chhetri, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Jewel Raja, the Mariners will be hoping for superior performances in the upcoming fixtures. The fans will be hoping for a top notch performance from the mariners in Delhi which can take them closer to the league leaders.

Players To Watch Out For:
Katsumi Yusa (ONGC), Odafa Okolie (Mohun Bagan)


ONGC  1 – 2  Mohun Bagan

Pailan Arrows vs Pune FC

9th November, Salt-Lake Stadium, Kolkata

Can Papas repeat his magic

Can Papas repeat his magic?

Unbeaten under Arthur Papas, Pailan Arrows are setting a trend which can be the future of Indian Football. Confident on the ball, the youngsters have been playing their way out from the back, their patient build up play and crisp passing, augurs well for the future of Indian Football. Last two matches produced contrasting performance from the developmental side. They did a back to their wall job against the Goans while in Sikkim they were the dominant force. Holicharan Narzary is leading the front line very well ably supported by Alwyn George, even-though they are not keeping the same standards throughout the 90 minutes. Midfield is bossed by Pronoy Halder – Milan Singh combination and they are the vital cogs in keeping possession. The task of building from the back is left to Souvik Ghosh and Deepak Devrani. Soram Porei has kept two clean sheets on the trot and need to be in his best if he and his team are to deny the Red Lizards.

Termed as the Dark Horses in this year’s I-League, Pune FC finds themselves in the middle with 2 wins and 2 losses under their belt. The last one will be bit hard to take as they didn’t deserve to lose after a tough fight against Churchill Brothers. The last minute penalty undone their hard work and determination, they fought bravely even after being reduced to ten men. James Moga, Douhou Pierre, Arata Izumi and the rest need to get their act together in-front of goal, if they have to take their challenge to the next level in Indian Football. Pailan Arrows are a tough nut to crack, especially with their tactical flexibility and Red Lizards need to be more clinical to get points on board. Both Arrows and Pune FC failed to find the target in their last two encounters and will be hoping to hit the back of the net more often to come-out unscathed in this tough encounter.

Players To Watch Out For:

Pronoy Halder (Pailan Arrows), Douhou Pierre (Pune FC)


Pailan Arrows  1 – 1  Pune FC


Mumbai FC vs Sporting Clube de Goa

9th November, Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune

Desperate for their first point, Mumbai FC host Sporting Club de Goa , a match where they would be looking to at-least gain a point from. The much fancied duo of N.D. Opara and Yusif Yakabu has failed to impress as a result of which one of them could get dropped in favour of Evans Quao, who is expected to start as midfielder. Lining up alongside him would be Nicholas Rodrigues, James Singh, Dane Periera, Justin Stephen and Amiri would line up in the defense. Time is running out for Khalid Jamil and his boys as the relegation fight is expected to only get tougher from here.

Sporting Clube de Goa, despite all the pre-season hype surrounding them, have failed to impress the football pundits across the nation. The major reason for this has been the absence of foreign players. Keita is injured while Japanese foreigner Seiya Sugishita has been recruited only some time back and is yet to adjust to the conditions. Sporting impressed in their away win over Lajong but then disappointed in the next match against Bagan. Veteran Ogba Kalu along with Adil Khan stay the man players in the midfield while young strikers Victorino Fernandes and Dawson Fernandes have looked in fine touch troubling the opposition defenders. It is a match that both the managers would be looking to win which makes it an interesting encounter to look forward to.

Players to Watch Out For:

Evans Quao(Mumbai FC), Dawson Fernandez (Sporting Clube de Goa)


Mumbai FC 1 – 1 Sporting

Churchill Brothers vs Salgaocar FC

9th November, Fatorda Stadium, Margao

After having won their first match aginst Mumbai FC, Salgaocar host Churchill in what is expected to be a high voltage clash between the Goan rivals. With Karanjit under the bar and the likes of Luciano Sabrosa, Rahul Kumar, Colin Abranches and Nicolau Colaco in the defense , Salgaocar will hope to keep the high flying Churchill strikers in the check. Sean Rooney is expected to start up-front and with Francis Fernandez , Quniton Jacobs, Anthony Barbosa, Randeep Singh and Rocus Lamare assisting him form the midfield. Francis Fernandez who scored against Mumbai FC, will again be the key man for Salgaocar as they are up against a tightly knit  Churchill side. The midfield looks settled for Salgaocar but they have failed to find the back of the net consistently.

Churchill Brothers have looked a settled unit this season and under the leadership of Beto have dished out impressive football which saw them edge out  Pune FC in last round. Sandeep Nandy will once again start in goal while the impressive Bilal Najarin and Denzil Franco will lead the defense. The ever improving Lenny Rodriguez will play as a defensive screen while captain Beto would start as the attacking playmaker, where he has been in tremendous touch so far. Steven Dias and Tomba Singh are likely to whip in crosses from the right and left flanks while Akram Moghrabi will be the front man. Churchill have been the team to watch out for this season and their impressive form should see them through in this close encounter

Players to Watch Out For :

Lenny Rodriguez( Churchill Brothers), Francis Fernandez(Salgaocar)


Churchill Brothers 1 – 0 Salgaocar

 Prayag United SC vs United Sikkim FC

10th November, Salt-Lake Stadium, Kolkata

Prayag United’s unbeaten run came to an end in the last round against Shillong Lajong FC. The Galacticosfinds themselves in the top half of the table after gathering 7 points from the first 4 rounds, 3 points adrift of league leaders Dempo SC.

On his way to another top scorer award

The upcoming match against United Sikkim presents them an opportunity to gain some momentum before the crucial fixtures this season. Ranty Martins has been in fine goal scoring form and Prayag United faithful will be pinning their hopes on him to get those much needed 3 points in this outing. Carlos Hernandez is slowly finding his feet in Indian football and on his day he can change the course of the match on his own. The problematic area for the Kolkata based side is their defence. Subrata Pal and his back four are yet to keep a clean sheet this season and vast improvement is needed if Prayag are to secure a victory in this match.

United Sikkim had four home games on the trot and they have secured 4 points so far. The real test of I-League starts now as they have 4 away games lined up one after the other. The Sikkim based club will be ready to take any point in these outings as it will be worth its weight in gold in the battle of relegation. Legendary striker and club’s co-owner Baichung Bhutia returned to the fold in the last match but will be suspended for this encounter as a result of a red card he received against Pailan Arrows. Impressive goalkeeper Yoon Tae had to be replaced in the last game with an injury and his fitness will be a cause of concern for the newcomers. Anwar Ali was outstanding against the Arrows the other day, and he needs to marshal the defence in the best way possible if they are to secure a result in this David Vs Goliath battle.

Players To Watch Out For:
Ranty Martins (Prayag United), Anwar Ali (United Sikkim)


Prayag United  3 – 1  United Sikkim

Air-India vs East Bengal

10th November, Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune

The Pilots welcome former champions East Bengal to the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune for their round five fixture. The institutional side flew past ONGC in the last round’s encounter at the Ambedkar Stadium courtesy a brace from Pradeep Mohanraj and goal apiece from Prakash and Lepcha. Air India are currently placed at meek 12th position in the league, hovering just over the relegation zone.  After three consecutive losses, the Pilots finally managed to get off the mark with a victory and coach Godfrey Pereira will be hoping that his side capitalize on the winning momentum as they welcome East Bengal. Air India have had a poor record against the Kolkata giants and any points from this match will add the young side’s confidence. Air India would once again go in with an unchanged side having Jagroop in goal with Premkumar and Ramandeep holding the last line of defence. Ezeh Henry would be our man to watch out for, who is expected to finish off the moves for the Pilots.

The Lal –Holud brigade were held at home in the previous round against defending champions after taking the lead. East Bengal are now placed at fourth position in the league with just two points separating them from the summit. Coach Trevor Morgan will be looking at garnering all three points in Pune to keep pressure on Dempo. Chidi Edeh has proved to be a very apt replacement for Tolgay and is expected to start alongside Manandeep Singh. Robin Singh, who has been used sparingly by the Brit can also make a appearance in the striking department. The duo of Mehtab and Harmanjot will be forming the core with J&K captain Ishfaq treading the left flank in synch with Noaba. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu would start under the bars.

Players To Watch Out For:
Ezeh Henry (Air India), Harmanjot Khabra (East Bengal)


Air India 1 – 3 East Bengal 

Dempo SC vs Shillong Lajong FC

10th November, Fatorda Stadium, Margao

Climax Lawrence : Can he dictate the game?

Climax Lawrence : Can he dictate the game?

The defending champions’ perfect record came to a halt past weekend at Yuba Bharati Krirangan as the Goan side drew against East Bengal. Armando Colaco’s men now face the Shillong Lajong at home. Positioned at the summit of the league, Dempo will be looking to bag all three points at home to maintain the pressure on the other contenders.  Japanese Ryuji Sueoka, who has already netted four goals for the Goan Blues this season, will be once again starting alongside Koko Sakibo. Subhashish Roy, who has been included in the Indian side for the Yemen game, would be the man under the bars for Dempo.  Veteran Mahesh Gawli and Antao are expected to guard the centre of defence in this match. Usual suspects Clifford Miranda and captain Climax Lawrence would be spear head the midfield.

The Meghalaya based side are currently placed at the sixth position in the league table with two wins. Buoyed by a wonderful comeback victory at home against a much fancied Prayag United side, Desmond Bulpin mentored team will be raring to go up against defending champions. This would be the north eastern side’s first away match after four consecutive home matches. Shillong based side are expected to deploy the same line up from the last round with Sushil Singh and G.Friday leading the attack upfront. Nigerian and former Mumbai FC Ebi Sukore would be marshalling the midfield along with Renedy Singh. Friday was on a roll in the last match and his influence on the match was pivotal.  He would be our man to watch out for on Saturday as Shillong Lajong look to upset another big team.

Players To Watch Out For:
Climax Lawrence (Dempo SC), Ebi Sukore (Shillong Lajong FC)


Dempo SC 2 – 1  Shillong Lajong


Contributors : Joseph George, Rahul Bhutani and Kunwar Deep Singh