Dempo Sports Club regained the top of the table spot after round nine matches as they got the better of arch rivals Salgaocar in the derby on Saturday. Club’s recent troubles with AIFF did not incept any performance barriers for the Armando Colaco mentored side as they edged past Salgaocar. Former Arsenal striker Rohan Ricketts netted the opener for the Panjim based club, as he latched onto the defensive error from Randeep Singh and gave hosts the lead at the half hour mark. Salgaocar came back with a robust plan to equalize and increased the pressure on the defending champions.
Soon it paid off as Aussie recruit Sean Rooney restored parity for the Goan Greens. The match took a turn for good as both the teams went for the kill. Just as it looked that both the teams were going to share points, Dempo came up with the killer blow as in form Rohan Ricketts floated the ball in and Ryuji headed the ball into the net. Japanese scored against his former club to take his tally to eight for the season.
With East Bengal failing to hit the back of the net in Shillong, Dempo clinch the top spot as the round nine matches fade off. Both the custodians, L. Ralte and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu came up with vital saves to help their respective sides share points. Shillong Lajong finishes the round with eleven points, while the Red-&-Gold Brigade finishes at the second position with twenty one points.
AIFF developmental side Pailan Arrows got the better of ONGC at the Salt lake stadium on Saturday and moved to sixth spot in the table. Delhi based sturdy defender Deepak Devrani got the ball rolling for the Kolkata side as he smashed in the first goal. ONGC fought back minutes after to equalize but Pailan knitted some great moves to exert immense pressure. In form striker Holicharan Nazary finished off a similar move in order to take his side into lead. ONGC was reduced to ten men post the lemon break and Pailan hit the back of the twice in the second half to round off a comfortable victory.
Sunday started with an early kick off between Prayag United and Mumbai FC at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan. The crazy game ended with a 3-2 victory for the Mumbai side, notching their fourth of the season. Top scorer Ranti Martins got on the score sheet for the purple brigade on the half hour mark and the hosts went into the tunnel leading via his goal.
The second half saw a much more gritty Mumbai side presenting a stiff challenge to the Prayag side and soon it paid dividends as Evans Quao netted his side’s first goal. Former India international Abhishek Yadav scored within ten seconds after he was summoned from the bench, a new I-League record, to take the coastal side into the lead with ten minutes remaining. Shankar Oraon had different ideas as he restored the parity for the home side once again. Just as it looked that Prayag had done enough to clinch a point, Yusif Yakubu slotted the third goal in the back of the net in the last minute of injury time to inflict back to back defeats for the big spending Prayag United.
Churchill Brothers, who will be seen representing India in the continental AFC Cup, made a long trip to Gangtok in this round. It was a story of missed chances for the Goan side and some heroic saves from the USFC custodian, Monotosh Ghosh. The Red Machines’ latest recruit, Akram Moghrabi was left ruing some golden chances, and coach Mariano Dias was not pleased with his side’s show. With this draw Churchill stay in the third place, but they missed out on a glorious opportunity to maintain the pressure on the top two.
Mohun Bagan had a wonderful opportunity to move up the table as they locked horns against Pune FC at the Balewadi Sports Complex. Pune FC dominated most of the match and had all the proceedings under control. Defender Chika Wali scored the opening goal for the Red Lizards at the half hour mark, and Japanese playmaker Izumi Arata slotted the ball home in the second half after exchanging passes with Douhou and Moga. The Mariners captain then switched gears and let a shot rip from the left flank which deflected into the Pune net. Pune FC defence looked shaky as Mohun Bagan had their tails up. Odafa then restored parity for the Kolkata side 5 minutes from the full time whistle, to silence the home crowd. It was a controversial goal as Odafa clearly handled the ball while controlling it from his chest. Coach Pereira was left fuming as he saw his side give away a healthy lead and a chance to spring further up the table to the fourth place. Mohun Bagan continues to have a bad start to the season with twelve points from nine games.
The Pilots registered a solid victory against Sporting Club de Goa in their own backyard courtesy a stunning 35th minute volley from Baldeep Singh. Air India custodian had to bring his ‘A’ game on the pitch after the lemon break to avoid a comeback from the hosts. With this win, Air India move to the tenth place with same number of points as Sporting.