Five talking points: I-League Round 3
1. CK Vineeth is Bengaluru FC’s go to man.
Everything CK Vineeth touches is turning into gold. After the Blues’ dream AFC Cup run with crucial goals, Vineeth returned to his hometown club with Kerala Blasters to net 5 goals in 9 appearances in the ISL. The disappointment of losing the ISL final has unfazed the Kannur born striker, as he has continued his rich vein of goalscoring form. went on to prove the 28-year-old’s peak, as he was absolutely unplayable against an in-from Mumbai FC side. While the signing of striker Roby Norales meant more competition for Vineeth, yesterday’s hattrick meant he has had little pressure from the Hondurans recruit. It was perhaps unsurprising that Bengaluru FC’s first hattrick ever was scored by CK Vineeth himself.
2. Sony Norde is back.
How many times has it happened that Mohun Bagan have scored and Sony Norde is not on the scoresheet? was a rare exception. The Haitian made his first start of the season for the Mariners, and while Duffy and Jeje stole the limelight with braces apiece, it was Norde’s return to his old self that must have pleased Sanjoy Sen. Almost scored with his trademark moves, cutting in from the left and letting it fly from 25-yards out, only for the woodwork to deny a dream return.
3. Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab FC lucky they are exempted from relegation.
Three games into the season, and league’s new entrants Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab FC are yet to prove their worth. Be it the less preparation time the sides got due to AIFF’s late declaration to include the two teams, or the respective teams’ inability to consolidate their sides, the duo just don’t look like I-League quality. The two sides are 7th and 8th in the table, bettering the bottom two only by a point. At the end of the season, it would be perhaps unsurprising to see either of both of them at the bottom, but being a corporate new entry team means there will be no demotion to the second division.
4. Lack of quality hurting Churchill Brothers.
Another new face in the league, although not a corporate team, Churchill Brothers returned to the I-League scene after being dumped in 2014 after failing to fulfill the club licensing criteria. Two years ago, the Goan’s had a quality squad, as the likes of Arindam Bhattacharya, Denzil Franco, Lenny Rodrigues, Balwant Singh and co. even featured in the AFC Cup. The Red Machines’ current squad is just a shadow of their past. The Goan’s managed to rope in one of their former face in Anthony Wolfe, who is yet to find his feet running, while the other two foreigners Bektur Talgat of Kyrgyzstan and Malian A Kroma are still unavailable. On the domestic front, apart from Brandon Fernandes and Clifford Miranda, there are no quality names Fabio Lopez can bank upon. Relegation favorites might be stretching it tad too much, considering Lopez’s side have shown positive signs, but they need to show improved consistency to continue their stay in the elite league for a longer period.
5. Bengaluru FC’s water tight defence too good to break down.
"Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles." Bengaluru FC’s defence has been the best example in the Indian scenario to aptly prove the above statement. John Johnson has been a pillar in the Blues’ defence since their inception, and has formed formidable partnerships with whoever he has been paired. His latest ally is Spaniard Juanan. Roca’s side have scored as many as nine goals in their opening three games, without a conceding a single goal. It has been down to the brilliance of the aforementioned duo of Johnson and Juanan. Roca has deployed a new system which starts from a high line at the back, something Johnson and Juanan have preserved flawlessly, catching numerous attackers offside before they could even think of initiating an attack. To think of it, new recruit Sandesh Jhingan might not even get a look in, dislodging either of the Englishman or the Spaniard. Even Mohun Bagan are yet to concede a single goal in the league, but with all due respect to the Mariners, the Blues look more composed and organized. Amrinder Singh has been an absolute spectator in all the three games his side have played, such has been the dominance of the Bengaluru defence.