I-League Round 11: Five Talking Points
Bengaluru FC’s demolition against East Bengal was the highlight of the gameweek, while Aizawl FC’s impervious run also gathered attention. Mumbai FC’s off-field issues coupled with their on-field woes mean the Yellows are in huge trouble. Here are the five talking points from the concluded round.
1. Title East Bengal’s to lose
With a superb 1-3 thumping of holders Bengaluru FC at their fortress, East Bengal proved their credentials as true title contenders. Though Trevor Morgan’s side are just a point ahead of second placed Aizawl FC, and three ahead of arch rivals Mohun Bagan (who have two games in hand), form and momentum means the balance tilts in the favor of Red & Gold Brigade. To add to this, Mohun Bagan have to play the off-form although dangerous Bengaluru FC home and away, adding to the list of acid tests to be faced by the Mariners. Bagan also feature in the AFC Cup (where they face the Blues again home and away), adding to fatigue and fixture congestion, which is a blessing for East Bengal. If all these won’t win Morgan’s side the league, nothing else will.
2. Aizawl FC can be India’s Leicester City
The world witnessed the impossible that Leicester City did in the English Premier League. Bagging the title against all the odds, Claudio Ranieri and his side proved that football is anyone’s game. We have a similar story budding in the I-League. With only five games to play for, the Mizoram-based side are on the cusp of glory. By eliminating Bengaluru FC in the Federation Cup earlier this year, Aizawl proved they had something special in their side. Khalid Jamil has given his new side the confidence, experience and solidarity one would expect to see in a title winning side. With an average squad age of 25 (despite the inclusion of 34-year-old Mahmoud Al-Amna), Jamil has established the foundation by blooding youngsters like Lalruatthara, Laldanmawia, Lalramchullova, Albert Zohmingmawia (all academy products) and Albino Gomes. If Aizawl can manage to continue their surreal run, there will be a new chapter written in the history books of Indian Football, on the lines of the magical Leicester side.
3. Santosh Kashyap needs to leave; fan outrage justified
As if the current poor run of form was not enough, Santosh Kashyap did not help his cause by releasing club’s fan favourites and senior players Steven Dias, Allan Dias and Pratik Chowdhary. , the ‘Yellow Brigade’ revealed their discontent against Santosh Kashyap from the stands. Being fair to them, their outrage is justified. After wins in the first two games, Mumbai are still in search of a victory. And Santosh Kashyap’s stubbornness, as witnessed from the sacking of the three senior players, is one of the prime reasons for their downfall. A player who did not want himself to be named, went on to inform FeverPitch that Kashyap plans the substitutions before the game albeit the situation during the game, showing his managerial incompetency. Essel Group acted quick to reinstate the trio, but they need to think about Kashyap before it is too late.
4. League long gone, Bengaluru FC should concentrate on AFC Cup
The loss to East Bengal might just be the final nail in the coffin for Bengaluru FC. Languishing fifth with eleven points behind their opponents, East Bengal diminished their faintest hopes of defending their crown. And with the league an impossible long shot, the Blues would be better off concentrating on the AFC Cup. It was THE competition that put the Blues and Indian Football as a whole on the Asian map not long ago in November, where they reached the finals. With not much left in the domestic scene and squad capable of putting up a reshow of Doha ’16, AFC Cup would be the best opportunity for Albert Roca’s side to give something to their fans in what has been a sad season for them.
5. DSK Shivajians still stuck in last season
New manager, huge squad overhaul, same old performances, such has been the sad story of DSK Shivajians. A 3-0 embarrassment at the hands of Churchill Brothers was yet another example of the terrible performances Dave Rogers’ side have put up this season. With a local young squad last season, it was somewhat justified that Derrick Pereira’s side finished rock bottom. But with the recruitment in quality, quantity and experience in the likes of Sasa Kolunija, Shane McFaul, Sanju Pradhan, Holicharan Narzary etc, there has been no signs of improvement whatsoever. One could opine that if the Pune outfit were not exempted from relegation, their performances perhaps would have been different.
It remains to be seen if Rogers’ side can come back strongly in the last five games, or finish with the ‘relegation exempted side’ tag.