As a new round of matches knock at the door, the Indian football faithful are not shy to believe that this round would restore some sanity in the table. The so called ‘Big Clubs’ have so far failed to execute their plans and their fans are showcasing a lot of anxiety on various platforms. After the fourth round of the seventh edition of the I-league commenced this year, the story of unexpected results continue to hog the limelight.
The big story obviously orbits around how the three time champions- Dempo SC, has struggled so far. Their dismal story continued in the fourth round as they were held to third consecutive draw against Salgaocar at the Duler Stadium in Mapusa. Arthur Papas has so far struggled with his newly assimilated squad and is yet to figure his best eleven. Dempo started with Beto in the middle of the park and Clifford on the left. India international Jeje Lalpekhlua was heading the striker department alongside his Irish team mate, Billy. Peter Carvalho and Jewel started from the middle and they both had decent games to boast about.
The more imminent problem right now in the team is around the final ball and in the newly put together defence. Dempo let go some of their very senior players in the summer and some pundits would debate that these sudden chain of events were always on the cards, as a part of transition phase. Dempo has conceded seven goals in their first four games. Both new recruits, Honda and Simon are struggling at the back. Blame it on lack of match practice or the side effects of choosing to deploy both the centre backs virtually starting from scratch, the opponents have made merry against Dempo’s fragile defence so far. The Goan Greens got ahead in late in the first half after Derrick Pereira mentored side muffed a host of chances to effectively seal the match inside the first forty five minutes. Scottish striker Daryl Duffy scored his third goal in as many games to take his side into lead at the lemon break. Both the sides came out with attacking instincts, but Dempo were hungrier to hit the back of the net and got back into the tie. Finally, nine minutes from the full time, Jeje slotted the ball past Karanjit Singh to restore parity. Clifford Miranda got an assist to his name as Dempo secured a vital point. The picture still looks bleak for the former champions, but their performance in the second half would have surely lit the hopes of Dempo finally arriving to the party this season. Salgaocar on the other hand sit pretty at the second position bagging two victories from their opening three games.
Bengaluru FC continued to stamp their authority in the league with another victory at home, this time against fellow new comers- Mohammedan Sporting. The rule of fielding four foreigners in the match has been used to maximum benefit by the team from Garden City. Once again John Johnson made the difference as he bagged his third successive goal from another set piece. Other usual suspects started the game including Curtis, Johny and Rooney. Deploying a 4-4-2 formation, Bengaluru FC cruised to a 2-0 lead inside the first half. The black panthers kept knocking on the doors, but somehow could not hit the back of the net, till Josimar finally pulled one back, but it proved to be too late as the Kolkata side succumbed to another loss. Mohammedan Sporting is still rock bottom of the table, while the I-league debutants shine at the other end of the table.
Elsewhere amidst voluble crowd at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune FC registered their second win of the league. As the Red Lizards cement their third position, the travelling Mohun Bagan side slipped further in the table to the tenth position. The game was peppered with great end to end football on display for the fans. The hosts took the initiative post the lemon break, courtesy their academy product Haokip, who headed them into lead. Meyer doubled the money for to send the cheering crowd into delirium. The turning point of the match came when the Mohun Bagan centre back Eche was sent off for his second yellow card offence, minutes after the break. The Mariners have only scored one solitary goal so far in three games, and are clearly struggling with the creative quotient upfront sans their captain Odafa.
Another Kolkata club kicked off their journey in the seventh edition of the I-league – Kingfisher East Bengal. Falopa’s side travelled to Shillong for their opening game as a huge crowd welcomed the Red-Gold brigade. The club’s participation in the AFC Cup led to a tweak in their fixtures. East Bengal, as expected, went in with all guns blazing. After a flurry of attacks, James Moga finally managed to put one in the back of the net. Soon Chidi arrived to the party with his goal on the stroke of half time. Cavin Lobo, who has impressed with his recent prowess in the mid field, also got on the score sheet with Moga bagging another before the final whistle to complete the rout in Shillong. East Bengal is positioned at the eighth position in the table with their hosts Shillong one place above them at seventh. This was their second loss on the trot after a promising start to the season.
Another surprise of the season, Mumbai FC was held at home to a draw by a gritty United Sports Club. Khalid Jamil’s side notched the third draw of the season, which was an outcome of another fight back after going down to an early goal. Earlier, Vineeth CK scored to give his side the lead after a series of attacks form the Purple Brigade. New signing Sanjdar Ahmadi came to the party when he tapped in the equalizer as he showcased his poaching skills. The game saw both the sides go for the kill with Sangram Mukherjee being busier. In the end both the sides clinched a single point. Mumbai FC move up the ladder to fifth position with United sports club slipping to fourth.
Last but not the least, defending champions Churchill brothers was in Shillong for their fourth league match against new comers Rangdajied United. Both the teams were desperate to register their first win in the league, it was quite evident that the match could be a cagey affair. Urged by a huge turnout at the stadium, the White-&-Blue brigade took the lead through their influential captain Lyngdoh. Dumbfounded, the Churchill side started their fight back in hope to restore parity and it couldn’t have come any sooner as Balwant Singh tapped in the equaliser, following Hugo free kick. The match ended in a one all draw, with both sides still struggling to garner their first win.