The battle at the top of I-League table is getting interesting after each round. At the end of the round 10, only 4 points separates the top team and the team in the 6th position. Riding on the brilliant goal scoring form of Darryl Duffy, Salgaocar sits at the top of the table with 18 points in 9 matches. Pune FC is hot on their heels with 17 points with a game in hand. Then there are 3 clubs tied at 15 points with only goal difference setting them apart. Bengaluru FC has a slight goal advantage over United SC and Sporting Club De Goa. Hot on their heels is Shillong Lajong FC with 14 points from 10 games.
It was United SC’s second consecutive win after their 5 game win-less streak and are looking like a well oiled machine at the moment. Defeating former Champions Dempo SC at their own den is no meaner task and that is what they have achieved after getting the better of Churchill Brother’s in the previous round. If the victory against Churchill showed their determination to snatch victory from the claws of defeat, this win showed United SC’s resilience to hold on to their advantage.
What is making United SC such a strong contingent? At the start of the season, they were in all sorts of trouble financially and hardly added on to their existing team in the summer. The likes of Subrata Pal, Gournamngi Singh etc. went for greener pastures while loyalists like Ranti Martins, Vineeth CK, Bello Rasaq, Asif K etc. decided to stick with the team even in adverse situations. Their capture of Eric Brown from disbanded ONGC side has been their best activity in the summer.
United SC are yet to bag a title sponsor and with the season at it’s peak now they badly need someone to bail them out. Few of their players are government employees, which makes them unavailable on one occasion or the other. But coach Eelco Schattorie and his wards, is taking none of it and is weaving his magic with the squad.
Schattorie had clearly stated that Kolkata Football League isn’t his priority and even fielded experimental squad on most of the occasions. But their playing style and pattern has remained similar with the players adapting to coach’s methodologies. Last Sunday United played some beautiful ‘pass and move’ football against Mohun Bagan to earn a much deserved draw even in the absence of 3 key players Ranti Martins, Vineeth CK and Asif K. This week they repeated the magic against Dempo at the Duler stadium in scorching heat. Whatever be the competition or the opposition, United SC players are playing a team game in an attractive fashion.
Last season, they might have gone in the Galacticos way to buy success. It didn’t work out as planned and the team ended up in a bizarre situation at the end of the season without much to offer. But the character and performance they have shown this season deserves special praise.
Some might point fingers towards Ranti Martins dip in form compared to his standards this season, but United SC has played as a better team than a group of individuals and that is producing the results now. Ranti is back among goals and the Indian Football fans know that it will be very difficult to stop him once he gets into his stride. Eric Brown has been a fantastic capture. He is linking the midfield and attack effortlessly apart from chipping in with crucial goals. His two goals made the difference against Dempo SC on Saturday. Bello Rasaq has grown over the years and is marshalling the defence very well.
When it comes to Indian Contingent, Vineeth CK is firing on all cylinders and he is the one who is putting inspirational performances one after the other. Even though the winger is deployed as a striker in 4-3-1-2 formation, he has effortlessly slotted into the new role and is producing the goals and assists to keep his team on top. After bagging the MOTM award in the last outing, he added two more assists this week and his performances are going to increase Wim Koevermans headache soon. Asif K is pulling the strings very well in midfield and one wonders how it will be when Lalkamal Bhowmick gets back to fitness. The duo along with the new foreigner can prove out to be handful for any team in I-League. Youngster Souvik Chakraborthy has so far been impressive and will be looking to build on to the good start to his career. Deepak Mondal is making the best use of his vast experience in defence and is leading the defensive line very well. Young Custodian Ishan Debnath is also making a mark in this line-up.
The best aspect of United SC’s game is their team work and slick passing moves. Eelco Schattorie has instilled a fluent short passing game to the teams ranks and it’s working out very well for the team.
Big Kolkata derby was the talking point of this round’s I-League fixtures. Even though it failed to live upto the expectation of a packed Salt Lake stadium, the goal scored by Lalrindika Ralte was worth its weight in gold. Karim Bencharifa’s side looked compact with 6 defensive minded players on the field, while Armando Colaco managed to have the last laugh once again against his nemesis.
For the first time ever Shillong fans witnessed a local derby in I-League. Though Rangadajied United started as the better of the two sides drawing inspiration from their new additions; Shillong Lajong came back strongly in second half to share the honors in Shillong Derby.
The match between Mohammedan Sporting and Churchill Brothers didn’t excite the Kolkata crowd before the derby and both teams shared points after a goal less draw in their Round 10 match. Champions Churchill Brothers are still struggling at the bottom of the table and will be hoping for a change in fortunes soon to recover their lost touch.
Bengaluru FC and recently crowned Goan Football League champions Sporting Club de Goa disappointed their supporters with a stale mate in Goa. Both team were tied at 14 points before the game and nothing changed after the match as well.
In the top of the table clash, Salgaocar raised ahead before half time as Darryl Duffy regained his goal scoring prowess after 3 matches. But their joy didn’t last long as Pune FC equalized through new signing Mustapha Riga who restored parity from the spot. Former Bolton Wanderers striker will be hoping to score more in future to establish himself as a household name in Indian Football.