With all the heavyweights winning their respective games convincingly, there was no surprise in the third round I-League matches. Kolkata giants East Bengal thrashed AIFF XI 4-0 to register the biggest victory in this edition of the league and climbed to the top of the podium in league standings. With three wins from as many matches and a goal difference of +6, the Red & Gold brigade leapfrogged Salgaocar, who had to go the extra mile to come out with a narrow 1-0 win over the newly promoted ONGC FC outfit. Both Salgaocar and Mumbai FC, who defeated Bangalore based HAL SC by 1-0, are tied on points with the table toppers, but finds themselves in 2nd and 3rd position respectively in terms of goal difference. Defending Champions Dempo Sports Club registered their first win of the campaign – a 2-0 home win against JCT, and climbs to the 6th position one point adrift of Churchill Brothers in 5th.
Elsewhere, Chirag United played out a goal-less draw against Air India in Kolkata, while Pune FC snatched one point against Viva Kerala – thanks to an injury time strike by defender Sunil Kumar. In the biggest match of this round, Churchill Brothers came out with a 2-0 victory against a struggling Mohun Bagan outfit. With this win, Churchill moved up to the 5th spot in the latest I-League standings, whereas three times Champions Mohun Bagan languishes in the relegation zone with only 1 point from their first 3 matches. The Green & Maroon coach Stanley Rozario has taken the responsibility for their poor showing and submitted his resignation letter to the club authority.
Star of the Week
Churchill Brothers’ goal-machine Odafa Okolie once again proved to be Mohun Bagan’s nemesis as he scored a brilliant brace, one in each half, to dump Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. His first goal came as early as in the 4th minute of the match and he doubled Churchill’s lead in the 67th minute with a coolly taken spot kick after he was unfairly tackled from behind by Mohun Bagan’s Harpreet Singh.
Goal of the Week
East Bengal’s promising young striker was in red hot form against the Indian Football Federation’s under 21 team – the AIFF XI. Robin Singh scored a brace in the second half and could have got his first hat-trick in Red & Gold colors if not for a brilliant fingertip save by AIFF XI’s reserve keeper Jagrup Singh. TheHardTackle’s “Goal of the week” award goes to Robin’s 2nd goal of the match which was a goal to be framed and preserved. In the 73rd minute of the match, after collecting a pass from Tolgay, Robin beat two defenders and unleashed a left footed rocket from the edge of the right side of the box in to the far corner. The AIFF goalkeeper Jagrup Singh, who was impressive throughout the entire 90 minutes, had no chance to stop that scorcher.
Save of the Week
In the 58th minute of the match, Robin Singh combined well with Tolgay Ozbey to play a nice sequence of passes and the Australian sent Robin the final delivery on the platter inside the AIFF box. Robin took a first touch before firing a left footed bullet to the left corner. However a superb one-handed acrobatic save from AIFF XI keeper Jagrup Singh denied Robin Singh another goal which, eventually, could well have been his first ever hat-trick. Jagrup stood like a immovable rock between a defeat and a humiliation for the young AIFF team.
The One-sided Affair of the Week
The AIFF boys looked out of their depth against the star-studded East Bengal line up. Although they fought hard and put their bodies on the line to ensure that they went in to the lemon break without conceding any goals, the East Bengal players toyed with Des Bullpin’s boys after the break and scored four goals in a 30 minute spell of ruthless dominance, which reminds us of the famous remark on the Arsenal players by Manchester United defender Patrice Evra –“After all it was men verses boys”.
Shocker of the Week
Even though round-3 did not witness any big scalps unlike previous two weeks, yet it was a pleasant surprise when Viva Kerala managed to draw their home game against last season’s 3rd place finisher Pune FC. It was actually Pune FC who could salvage one point from this encounter as they found it difficult to respond to the Viva Kerala’s 74th minute strike. At-last just a few seconds before the final whistle, Pune FC defender Sunil Kumar saved the day for Derrick Perreira’s men by equalizing in the 94th minute. That was indeed as close a s(h)ave as it can get.
The Race for the Golden Boot Award
Churchill Brothers talisman Odafa Okolie added two more goals to his kitty to emerge as the leading scorer after the third round with 4 goals. Previous week’s top scorer Salgaocar’s Ruiji Sueoka and Chirag United’s Junior Obagbemiro failed to add to their tally of 3 goals and currently placed in the second spot along with East Bengal Tolgay Ozbey. Robin Singh, who scored a brace against AIFF XI, shares the third spot with Salgaocar forward duo of Anthony Barbosa and Gilbert Olivera scoring 2 goals apiece.
Team of the Week
It was a tough choice to decide on the representative for the goalkeeping slot. On one hand AIFF XI keeper Jagrup Singh performed tremendously well to save no less than four certain East Bengal goals, his Red & Gold counterpart Sandip Nandy still remains the only goalkeeper yet to concede a single goal in this tournament. While Sandip had almost nothing to do in the entire match, except pulling off a very good stop to deny Subodh Kumar’s long range scorcher from 30 yards out; Jagrup, even after his heroic display, had to let in four goals. Our choice for the goalkeeping position yet again goes to the veteran East Bengal custodian for his consistent display.
For the two central defenders position, the main contenders are Chirag’s Arnab Mondal, Churchill’s Robert Lalthalma and ONGC FC’s Gaur Naskar. We would pick Robert and Gaur in our team keeping in mind the strength of the opposition attacks which they handled. While Robert did well to keep the three pronged Mohun Bagan attack at bay for the entire duration of the match; Salgaocar’s star-studded forward line could only score through a controversial penalty against the ONGC FC defense led by Gaur. For the two full back positions, Dempo’s John Dias will be partnering Salgaocar SC’s Irungbam Khelemba Singh.
Dempo’s Roberto Mendes da Silva, more commonly known as Beto, will share the central midfield responsibilities with East Bengal’s Penn Orji. On the wings, it will be East Bengal’s Sanju Pradhan and Churchill’s Bineesh Balan complementing each other.
We have had quite a few spirited performance by the strikers in this round. East Bengal’s Tolgay Ozbey continued his consistent goal scoring form and so did Dempo’s Ranti Martins. But in the “Team of the Week’s” attacking third, we will have our “Star of the week”, Odafa Okolie will form a lethal attacking combo with the new poster boy of Indian football, Robin Singh – the winner of our “Goal of the Week” award.