How often can you keep Odafa Onyeka Okolie quite? The Nigerian goal scoring machine had a bad season till he showed glimpses of old Odafa against Pune FC. Round 16, the last round before I-League goes on break turned, out to be happy for Odafa Okolie and the Mariners.
Mohun Bagan is under tremendous pressure because of poor performances in the I-League. The club has not lived up to the expectation of the fans and is languishing at the bottom half of the table. Before the round 16 the club was just above the drop zone with only 15 points. The match against Pune FC was important not only to get out of the bottom half but also to take confidence going into the New Year. Pune FC given the position they are in, was expected to get all three points from the fixture but an inspirational performance from the Mohun Bagan captain stole the show. Mohun Bagan not only secured three important points but also gave an indication that their return to form must be near with a 3-1 win. The Mariners outperformed their rivals in all departments on the field. This loss has put serious doubt on the title aspirations of the Pune FC. The Red lizards will have to use the I-league break to bring back things back in order.
Karim Bencharifa would be a relieved man after the victory against Pune FC. The Moroccan was under serious pressure and another defeat would have cost him his job. His side lacked the cutting edge and was found wanting in the link between the midfield and the strikers. The victory against Red Lizards was flawless.and Bencharifa will look to take this confidence and continue motivating his team for future matches.
Odafa Okolie’s form was below average and his fitness was under scrutiny. The Saturday night show against Pune FC would have helped him to regain his confidence. He will have to play big role in the federation cup which will be held in January. Mohun Bagan now will look to carry this form in the federation cup, a tournament which they have won record number of times. If the replicatey the performance they gave against Pune FC they could certainly pose a big threat for other teams in federation cup.
The Round 16 just had 4 matches while other two matches have been postponed. This Round did not have any surprises. The teams in form continued their dominance expect Pune FC against Mohun Bagan.
Bengaluru FC returned to the winning ways at home against Salgaocar FC after tasting first defeat at home against East Bengal. The match will be remembered controversial penalty awarded to Bengaluru FC in the last minute of regulation time. From the start of the match Salgaocar FC looked more promising and dangerous than the hosts. The Greens were in attacking mood and enjoyed a lion’s share of possession. They were unlucky to concede the first penalty of the match despite dominating proceedings. India International Sunil Chhetri converted the spot kick with ease and gave a lead to the host. Despite being a goal down Salgaocar continue their attacking brand of football. The constant pressure paid dividends when Bengaluru FC conceded a penalty. Young Gilbert Olivera slotted the ball back of the net with ease. After equalizing Salgaocar continued their onslaught but on a counterattack in the last minute they conceded a penalty when Robin Singh was brought down by Augustin Fernandes on edge of the box. Impact of the tackle was clearly outside the box but the referee thought the other way. Robin Singh himself took the penalty and scored the goal and ended a long goal drought. With this win Bengaluru FC remained at the top of the table with 30 points from 15 games.
Sporting Clube de Goa has amazed fans with their beautiful display on the field. The Spanish Tiki Taka Style of play has given them success not seen since mid 2000s. They continued their winning streak after beating United SC 1-0. This is their 4th win on the trot in the league. Rojen Singh scored the only goal after receiving the ball from the Boimah Karpeh. With this win Sporting Clube de Goa maintained their 2nd position with 24 points from 14 games.
Dempo SC continues their struggle at the bottom half of the table after defeat against Shillong Lajong. This is first time Shillong Lajong has won both away and home matches against Dempo SC. Dempo’s Australian Coach Arthur Papas was yet again not on the scene. Shillong Lajong took the lead in first half from a spot kick taken by Milan Singh. Dempo was quick to get the equalizer in second half through Jeje but Boithang Haokip was quick to restore the lead. The score-line remained same till the final whistle. This win solidifies Shillong Lajong’s position in top half while Dempo continue to languish in the bottom half of the table.