The business end of I-League is nearing and the teams are raring to go. Churchill Brothers and Rangdajied United were the first teams to battle it out after the winter break. The battle between the two bottom placed teams had many things at stake as the teams looked for a way to claw out of the relegation zone. Contrary to their status as defending Federation Cup and I-League champions, Churchill Brothers had occupied the wooden spoon spot before the match kicked-off and it was a label they wanted to shrug of as soon as possible. Indian Football has become an unpredictable quantity and the second half will be an exciting affair to watch.
The additions of Anthony Wolfe and Christian Lagos to Churchill Brothers side; Sushanth Mathew, Rehenesh TP etc. to Rangdajied United had increased the quality and expectations of both the sides. But the match failed to live upto the expectations as it produced only one goal in 90 minutes. Goan side relied on a penalty rebound from their foreign recruit Anthony Wolfe to get the better of IMG-R inspired Rangdajied United. Recently crowned Federation Cup champions had to rely on their custodian Lalit Thapa in the dying minutes for protecting the slender lead and adding 3 points to their kitty. This win helped them to climb ahead of Rangdajied United and Mohammedan Sporting in the relegation dog fight.
Pune FC and Sporting Club De Goa aims to take it upto Bengaluru FC.
The 2nd placed team in I-League is taking on the 3rd placed team and this match will be crucial for both the sides title aspirations. A win is crucial for both the sides to keep up the pace with League leaders Bengaluru FC. Pune FC had a disappointing run of games in recent past and will be hoping that the return of I-League will bring a change in their fortunes. Their last victory was against United SC in I-League before encountering disappointments in Federation Cup and in AFC Champions League play-off. A win is badly needed to raise the morale and team spirit for the home side as another reverse will be too hard to accept for the Pune based side.
Sporting Club de Goa on the other hand are performing exceptionally well since the arrival of Oscan Bruzon at its helm. They lifted the Goa Pro league ahead of much fancied opponents like Churchill Brothers, Dempo SC and Salgaocar SC. They continued their good work in Federation Cup as they eventually finished as the runners-up after emerging from a tough group involving I-League leaders Bengaluru FC and AFC Cup Semifinalists East Bengal. Sporting Goa are putting up consistent performances one after the other and is a well organized side. They will be fancying a victory over a disjointed Pune FC which will take them level on points with Bengaluru FC at the top of I-League. This will also help them to open up a 6 point gap from their opponents.
Can Arthur Papas get Dempo SC back on track?
Dempo SC like their compatriots Churchill Brothers had a disappointing first half in I-League. Coincidentally both the teams performed far better in Federation Cup 2014 and are looking to build on their good work in Kerala. Arthur Papas, was labelled as a tactically astute and flexible coach while he managed Pailan Arrows last season. But his reputation had taken a hit as Dempo struggled in the first half of the season. He seems to have recovered some lost ground during the Cup competition and is hopefully targeting a top half finish in I-League to save the blushes. His first hurdle will come in the form of Rangdajied United. They do have a good squad at their disposal and are capable of giving any team a run for their money on a given day. The I-League table is very tightly packed and a win can help the Goan team to climb the ladders pretty quickly.
Salgaocar and Mohun Bagan aiming for the 5th Spot.
There are 4 teams tied at 18 points in the I-League table, two of them are Salgaocar SC and Mohun Bagan AC. These sides recently met in Federation Cup where they shared the spoils. That draw was enough for Muhun Bagan to progress to the Semifinals while Salgaocar bid adieu then and there itself. This years I-League has been very unpredictable and it will be difficult to pick one side for an outright win at the moment. This game presents both the teams an opportunity to clear some space from the rest of the pack as the other two teams are not in action on Sunday. Salgaocar has been reliant on Darryl Duffy to produce the goals while Mohun Bagan looks rejuvenated after the arrival of Christopher Chizoba. Who will have the last laugh when the final whistle blows?
Dempo SC V Rangdajied United, February 15, 3.00 PM
Salgaocar FC V Mohun Bagan AC, February 16, 3.00 PM
Pune FC V Sporting Club De Goa, February 16, 7.00 PM