How often have we noticed that the leading goal scorer list in a regular I-League season are usually swamped with strikers from foreign land? Well, the count actually paints a very sad state of affairs with respect to Indian strikers over the past few years. But it seems one player has taken up the task of silencing the critics this time around- Indian national team captain and the all time top scorer in an Indian football jersey- Mr. Sunil Chettri.
Now plying his trade with the Bangalore side Bengaluru FC in their maiden I-league season, Sunil has bagged six goals in the league, the most recent being his brace in the last round against Mohammedan Sporting. Albeit the Black panthers restored parity through courtesy a Josimar brace, Sunil’s all round performance was awarded with a second goal twenty minutes before the full time whistle to ensure fourth straight victory for the team from garden city. Earlier Liberian john Menyongar had given the away team the lead, which was retained by Sunil’s first goal.
After a slow start to the league, Sunil is now finally finding his feet as he bags his third consecutive brace, also making a third away win possible for the Karnataka club. This is a pleasant site for all Indian football faithful as they had earlier seen their captain fantastic struggle during his venture away from the I-League in USA and later in Portugal. Albeit it always is a welcome experience for a player like Chettri’s stature, but then the absence of regular playing time was not healthy and was having an eventual impact on his performance. But it seems that now Sunil is back, and back with a band as he leads Bengaluru FC at the summit of the table after round fourteen clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. Sunil has also regained his old sharpness for the national team and was hugely influential in the last two FIFA friendlies played by India.
Registering their fifth defeat of the season, Mohammedan Sporting now slip to tenth in the league with Josimar scoring seven goals upfront. Probably it is time to introspect for mister Aziz and co. Mohammedan officials though, were busy blaming the referee (in all fairness, they could have had at least one spot kick) instead of introspecting about their poor team composition.
The upset of the round was sponsored by Rangdajied United. The Meghalaya side sensationally got the better of high flying Pune FC at home courtesy two very late goals to complete a terrific comeback. Santosh Kashyap’s side is now only two points adrift of safety in the table and it would be no surprise that the Meghalaya side eventually end up floating around mid table post some round of matches. Rangdajied has now only lost one in their last five, thanks to some shrewd signings by the team, adding teeth to all the departments. Pune FC on the other hand lost the chance to stay hot on the heels of league leaders Bengaluru FC, as they won their away match in style. The Red Lizards will now be slotted in the fifth spot, with no wins in their last five encounters.
Mohun Bagan, after winning only their third game in the thirteenth round, avoided their third loss in their last five games as they were held to a draw at the Kalyani Stadium. Kerala lad CS Sabeeth came to the rescue of the Mariners, as the visitors led for a healthy part of the regulation time. Sabeeth calmly slotted in his third goal of the campaign, ten minutes before the full time whistle. Md. Rafi had given an early lead to the Mumbai side as a result of poor marking by the Mariners from a N.Rodrigues corner. Bagan now are positioned at eighth in the table with fifteen points from thirteen games. Mumbai FC finishes round 14 equal on points with Mohun Bagan clinching a point from the tie.
Another Kolkata giant East Bengal also shared the spoils with Salgaocar at the Duler Stadium in Mapusa as both the sides failed to hit the back of the net. Both the sides went out with a cautious approach into the game, but soon both the keepers, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Karanjit Singh were called into action. The former made two world class saves to keep the Kolkata side in contention for all three points. Strikers from both the sides were guilty of muffing chances at either end. East Bengal now enter the top half of the table with the help of this draw as Armando Colaco’s team gear up to face the table toppers Bengaluru FC away from home. Salgaocar on the other hand, slip up to the sixth position in the table, as they break their streak of losses by garnering a point from this one at home.
Arthus Papas’ boys again fall short of hoarding their third victory in the league, as a gritty performance earned the goan side a seventh draw, third in last five games. Papas deployed a side without any foreigners which was all set to lock horns with a stubborn United Sports side. Both the teams took their time to settle into the game which led to an insipid first half. Second half saw half chances falling in the way of both the teams, which eventually were not converted. The backline at either end of the pitch had a good outing, keeping a clean sheet in the end. The Purple Brigade now occupies the fifth spot, nine points adrift of the top position, whereas Dempo still struggle in the bottom half of the table.
Cornell Glen scored his seventh goal of the season as Shillong Lajong marched into the podium place at third. Churchill Brothers on the other hand stay still at the rock botton of the ladder as Subhash Bhowmick was left lamenting missed chances. Striker Balwant Singh especially was guilty of throwing away a number of chances in first forty five minutes. This lack of finishing was later to be rued by the Red Machines as the side from Shillong grew in confidence. Soon the away team led with Cornell Glen slotting in the opener. Shillong then kept a good defensive line to see off the tie, leaving Churchill Brothers a lot to think about as they prepare for a huge match against Rangajied United. The defending champions will play a relegation “six pointer” in next round.