If one is inclined towards the inaugural I-league fantasy League and prediction contests, then they ought to have a torrid time this season. The unpredictability in the league has become the theme of the season after analyzing some results from the last few rounds. With the top of the table fluctuating between three prime teams (namely Salgaocar FC, Pune FC and newcomers Bengaluru FC), the rest of the table is very unstable with teams getting the better of each other, with their recent form having minimal impact on the fixtures.
Mohammedan Sporting Club did not get a flying start to their comeback season in the Airtel I-League. The Kolkata side lost their opening three fixtures and were tipped by many pundits to struggle throughout, but the Abdul Aziz mentored side have staged a fight back of sorts as they crawl up the table, churning results and bagging points in their last few outings. The Black Panthers are now slotted in the top half of the table at seventh position. The Durand Cup holders edged Mumbai FC at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan yesterday, courtesy a spot kick from Brazilian Josimar.Abdul Aziz made some strategically sound changes during the match, changing the formations shrewdly. Josimar was replaced by the fresh legs of Tolgay, to spur up the break attacks. Similarly, Ajay Singh was replaced by Ishfaq. Mohammedan has now lost only one their last five, winning two away matches.
The combination of former JCT striker Ajay Singh and Josimar is now flourishing for the Black Panthers. With Ajay playing a little behind and Josimar playing the target man, Nigerian Penn Orji in the mid field has more flexibility to work his magic. A player to watch out this season will be number eighteen from the squad- Gagandeep Singh. The six foot plus lad from Punjab is a towering figure in the middle of the park and catches the eye with his tireless work rate. These four will hold key to where the Black Panthers will land up this season, plus of course how Tolgay fares in the league.
The come back Luciano Sabrosa at the back after nursing a horrendous injury which the Brazilian sustained in the Durand Cup final, has also helped the Black Panthers to keep clean sheets. The center back pairing of Sabrosa and Sangha is now showing their mettle as Mohammedan Sporting has only conceded three goals in their last five games.
On the other hand, the visitors portray a completely opposite story so far this season. Khalid Jamil’s side started on a positive note this season, but the side has lost their sheen. Mumbai FC has lost four out of last five, after a glitch less start. The side was tipped to do well this season, boosted by shrewd influx Afghan nationals, but the side has shown no signs of taking the game to the next level, but ironically the team’s performance has dropped.
Pune FC got the better of Bengaluru FC at the Balewadi to clinch the second spot. James Meyer, the Australian in the squad, pierced the otherwise robust Bengaluru defence to bag all three points. Arup Debnath had to step up and halt a spot kick to help the cause late in the game. The Red Lizards now occupy the second spot with five wins out of the seven matches so far. The side from the garden city has now lost two out of their first three away matches. With fans keeping a vigilant eye on their away matches, the side from Karnataka needs to step up.
Shillong Lajong continued to struggle at home as they were held by a somewhat struggling Mohun Bagan side in an action packed encounter in Shillong. The Mariners conceded a penalty after Eche was booked for his second foul on Uilliams. Club top scorer Glen stepped up to slot it past Shilton Paul. Just before the lemon break Mohun Bagan restored parity with Sabeeth and Zakeer combining well in the danger zone. Eche would be now unavailable for the all-important derby, whereas Jibon Singh would also be missing the other big derby of Shillong.
Dempo finally seem to arrive to the party, notching their first two wins in the last four matches. Dempo clinched all three points against defending champions Churchill Brothers. Coach Arthur Papas will be confident before the next round fixture against gritty United SC and will hope that Jeje and Beto continue to display good performances. Defending champions however failed to find that illusive win, which might kick off their derailed season. The heart wrenching loss against Salgaocar was followed up with a loss to local rivals Dempo in the last round. The Red Machines are lying in the second last position currently.
Newcomers Rangdajied United were also denied their first win in Airtel I-League as table toppers Salgaocar rallied to secure a point after chasing the game. Santosh Kashyap’s side seemed to be cruise control with a two goal lead courtesy Ngaite, only to see Salgaocar come back to bag a point. Salgaocar now sit at the top of the table, opening up a one point gap for Pune FC to chase. Rangdajied are still placed at the rock bottom of the table, registering their third draw.
East Bengal gained a point with a goal in the last minute of the match against high flying Sporting Club. Mehtab Hossain saved the AFC Cup semi-finalists the blushes of consecutive losses in the league with a very vital strike, probably saving Falopa’s job. Sporting Club would be very disappointed with the way they gave away two points after a small lapse in concentration. The Flaming Oranje are now slotted at an impressive fourth position with East Bengal slipping down to tenth.