I-League Round 8 : Five Talking Points
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan drew blank, Bengaluru FC were also held once again. Aizawl FC’s astonishing run continued, while Mumbai faltered yet again.
Here are the five talking points of the Round 8…
Kolkata Derby fails to deliver
For all the hype of the top of the table clash, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan failed to deliver in the Kolkata Derby as it ended 0-0. It was the second draw in the last three Kolkata Derbies, but a win for either side would have turned the tables in the title race. Make no mistake, it was a dramatic derby with lots of action, but it was a derby dominated by both sets of goalkeepers. A win for the away side would have propelled them just one point behind their arch rivals with a game in hand, (They would have been levelled on points had Mohun Bagan win, with a game to spare) while Trevor Morgan’s side could have been banking on a six-point cushion at the top.
Mumbai FC could be playing to survive yet again
After the initial winning streak of Mumbai FC, it would have been imprudent to suggest that the Maharashtra capital side would be two places off the drop zone in the next six games. And with the experienced Santosh Kashyap at the helm, they were even touted to be in the thick of the title race by pundits and fans likewise. But as they say, it is a short league and anyone could beat anyone, Mumbai find themselves struggling yet again. Six defeats on the trot has thrown Kashyap’s side at the wrong end of the table. The Mumbaikars, who managed to escape drop on the last day of the previous season, look to be heading in a similar direction. To make matters worse, they face an acid test in the next four days, as they welcome Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC. Kashyap is a witty manager, but needs to act quickly if his side are to avoid a repeat of the farcical ending of last season.
Sunil Chhetri is back in goals
With a draw against Minerva Punjab FC, Bengaluru FC managed to go on a winless run in four games, dragging themselves down to fifth in the table. Albert Roca, who did wonders in the AFC Cup, might still need time to get things ticking in the domestic scenario. But one positive the Spaniard might be looking at is the return to goalscoring form of his captain Sunil Chhetri. It would be tad too harsh on the all time Indian top scorer to say he has not been scoring many goals like he did in his first season. Despite playing in a withdrawn unorthodox left-wing role under Ashley Westwood for two seasons and now for Albert Roca, Chhetri has been an asset to the side with his work ethic and impact in big games. While the Blues’ attack has failed to fire in the past few, Chhetri has three in as many games. Roca currently has many issues to deal with, but his captain's goalscoring form must be something he will bank on as his side look to bounce back.
Sony Norde needs to start firing
For someone who has been I-League’s most dangerous player for most parts of last two seasons, able to turn any game on its head with individual brilliance, Sony Norde has failed to replicate his form for Mohun Bagan this season. And on Sunday, he failed to live upto the Mariners’ expectations as he faltered yet again in the Kolkata Derby. In four games Norde has played, he has managed to score only one goal, which is a poor return considering his own high standards. Darryl Duffy and Jeje Lalpekhlua’s goals have somewhat lifted the goalscoring burden off the Haitian’s shoulder, but Norde needs to step up if his side are to outstrip East Bengal in their bid for the league.
Aizawl FC real title contenders
Third in the table with just three points off the top, Aizawl FC are on a dream run. After being relegated last season only to be reinstated again, Khalid Jamil is doing wonders with a young squad. To put into perspective, had the Mizo based side not lost to Mohun Bagan in the dying minutes of the previous round, we would have seen them ahead of the Mariners in the table. Aizawl already had an exciting squad last season that eliminated Bengaluru FC from the Federation Cup, but Khalid Jamil has done excellent ground work by getting the defensive tone of the side right, while also recruiting quality in the form of his old henchmen in Jayesh Rane and Ashutosh Mehta. It remains to be seen if youngsters like Albino Gomes, Lalramchullova, and Lalruatthara have the mettle to keep going, but one thing looks to be certain, Jamil’s side are real contenders and no pushovers.