I-League Round 2 : Five Talking Points
The second round of the 2016/17 ended with some nail biting encounters, with Aizawl FC and Mumbai FC winning it in the stoppage time. Leaders Bengaluru FC maintained their perfect record, while Mohun Bagan kept up the pace with a victory of their own. Here are five talking points from the concluded gameweek…
1. Bengaluru FC have what it takes to be champions elect.
Holders Bengaluru FC were once again touted as prime favorites to land yet another I-League title to the Garden City. And Albert Roca’s side have proved it in the opening 2 games that they have the mettle and armory to be crowned Champions yet again. , the Blues were frustrated by their South Indian rivals Chennai City FC for large chunks of the game. Despite starting with four attackers and essentially one central midfielder in Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Roca’s side was unsuccessful in their attempts to get past Karanjit Singh. But Bengaluru’s quality in depth meant Roca could always rely upon his options to get the job done. New signing Roby Norales and the free scoring CK Vineeth were thrown at the deep end, with both of them grabbing goals to propel their side at the top of the table.
2. Aizawl FC will be this season’s dark horses.
Aizawl FC have a new savior in Khalid Jamil. The former Mumbai FC head coach is well known for his defensively drilled sides, and his new side doesn’t seem like an exception. The Mizo based side almost caused an upset on the opening day when they drew 1-1 against the mighty East Bengal. Had it not been for a last gasp Ivan Bukenya equalizer, Jamil’s side would have been sharing the top spot with Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan. He has consolidated his defence with the likes of Kingsley Obumneme and Aizawl’s 94th minute hero against Minerva Punjab FC Ashutosh Mehta. To add to it, he has the right balance in midfield and attack. Albert Zohmingmawia has been exceptional in midfield, while Jayesh Rane, Kamo Stephane Bayi and Alfred Jaryan’s forays upfront have been too hot to handle. A team to be wary of this season.
3. Mumbai FC can bank on Santosh Kashyap.
When Mumbai FC started their campaign without a foreigner and a domestic big name signing, it was predicted that the Maharashtra capital side would barely survive like last season. One major difference between the two seasons is Santosh Kashyap. The 50-year-old has emphasized more on local talents, and has brought a breath of fresh air to the club and fans alike. Starting the campaign with a win in the ‘Maha Derby’ over rivals DSK Shivajians, Kashyap’s side were victorious yet again thanks to a 92nd minute Karan Sawhney winner against Churchill Brothers. Kashyap achieved a similar feat with the less fancied Royal Wahingdoh FC two seasons ago, helping them to a 3rd spot. While it might be difficult for the Mumbaikars to achieve such a high spot given the strength of the top dogs, rule nothing out with Santosh Kashyap at the helm.
4. Shillong Lajong could be relegation favorites.
While one North East side in Aizawl FC has started brightly, their rivals Shillong Lajong seem to have lost their way. Back to back defeats against two heavyweights Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan sees Thangboi Singto’s charges rock bottom. While it might be too harsh to judge the Reds on two games against table-topping sides, they hardly provided any resistance in aforementioned games. Shillong finished a respectable 6th last season, but could be fighting relegation this season. Strike pair Fabio Pena and Aser Pierrick Dipanda have been wasteful when presented with opportunities, and defensive signing Dan Ignat has yet to display any of his experience at the top level. They face an in-form Aizawl FC next, and this would be Singto’s sides’ best chance to kickstart their season with a win over their North Eastern rivals.
5. Dave Rogers needs to sort things out to avoid last season’s nightmare.
New manager, same old problems. DSK Shivajians’ new season hasn’t started out as planned, and they don’t look like getting out of last season’s rut. The new comers of last season finished bottom last season, which prompted a managerial change. Dave Rogers made host of changes to the side, dipping in the market with numerous signings. But the Englishman doesn’t seem to have found the right balance and a right starting XI. For instance, he started with Sanju Pradhan and Holicharan Narzary; arguably India’s best wingers as wing-backs, while opting for a totally different set-up in the opener against Mumbai FC. It is a short league, with games coming thick and fast, and Rogers should act quickly if his side are to avoid last season’s horror.