As the round 14 of 2014/15 I League, an observation that stuck most of the fans across the nation was that none of the three Goan clubs – Dempo, Salgaocar and Sporting Club de Goa were present in the top three spots. I League or the National Football League as it was previously called has been dominated by the Goan clubs with Dempo winning the title five times and Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers winning it twice each.
The Goan clubs however have been struggling this season with Dempo and Sporting Club de Goa involved in a relegation tussle, occupying the last two slots in the league table and Salgaocar occupying the fifth spot. The Goan clubs have been famous for their professional conduct and supportive management which has always seen them do well than their counterparts across the nation. The Goan clubs are known to stick with their coaches and players in tough times and treat their players well unlike the Kolkata clubs which are notoriously famous for indiscipline, interference in the team affairs by the club officials and their hire and fire policy especially with regards to their foreign players. All three Goan clubs finished in the top five last season but as things don’t look good this season and all three clubs have themselves to blame for the situation they find themselves in.
The most successful Indian club in the recent times Dempo is languishing at the 10th spot in the I League. Most of the players of the team were a part of the FC Goa team that played in the Indian Super League and the club is bearing the brunt of it with most players tired due to a cramped schedule. Dempo have also had injury issues with some or other players being injured at some or the other point of the season. Dempo have created a lot of chances with the likes of Carlos Hernandez, Lenny Rodrigues and Francis Fernandes at the helm of affairs but have failed to score. Dempo have scored just 8 goals in 11 matches they have played this season which is the second worst among the eleven teams in the league. The primary reason for this has been the injury to Tolgay Ozbey who has now missed most of the first half of the season and the departure of Romeo Fernandes to Brazilian club Atl tico Paranaense. The duo had been the major source of goals with Tolgay scoring six goals in the Federation Cup and Romeo notching up four. The club lacks an experienced striker with both Alwyn George and Holicharan Narzary guilty of missing some easy chances that fell their way. Scoring goals was an issue for Dempo even last season until Tolgay joined the club in the second half of the last season but the club failed to learn from last season and didn’t recruit any additional striker which is why they are struggling.
Dempo had a good start to the season where they reached the Federation Cup finals scoring 11 goals in 6 matches in the tournament but failed to carry on the momentum in the I League. The appointment of Trevor Morgan in place of Arthur Papas following an embarrassing 5-1 loss to East Bengal hasn’t yet yielded positive results but despite the lac of time at his hand, the experienced Morgan is expected to help Golden Eagles save relegation and possibly look for a respectable finish. An important thing for Morgan will be to get his starting eleven right unlike his predecessor who had been accused by the fans of favoring certain players while overlooking the deserving ones.
Salgaocar’ s season seems to have gone haywire following an impressive start to the season which saw them lift the Goa Pro League and the Durand Cup and reach the semifinals of the Federation Cup. Having opted to not release players for the Indian Super League, Salgaocar were expected to do well but like Dempo have struggled to score goals. Derrick Periera’ s over-reliance on Darryl Duffy backfired as the Scot missed as many as six games due to an injury and the Goan Greens failed to score goals in his absence. Dawson Fernandes who joined the club from Sporting at the start of the season has also not played a single game this season due to injury. If the striking department has misfired for Salgaocar, defense has been an even bigger concern for Derrick Periera. Francis Kasonde has been guilty of making mistakes and has failed to inspire the defense while injuries and suspensions for Indian players have meant that Salgaocar have had to play a makeshift defense on several occasions. Douhou Pierre has been the standout player for Salgaocar so far but the Ivory Coast midfielder has not found enough support form his teammates. The return of Darryl Duffy and the signing of Yemeni midfielder Khaled Baleid may prove to be a turning point for the side in what has been a rather average I League campaign so far.
Sporting Club de Goa on the other hand have had a turbulent campaign so far. The team let go of Oscar Bruzon who did a wonderful job with the side and led them to the Federation Cup final last season. They have paid the price for it as they are yet to notch up a win in the I League. Like Churchill Brothers who were relegated last season, Sporting have seen as many as seven foreign players don their jersey this season. The likes of Boima Karphe, Gleton Wolfe and Ogba Kalu, who were a part of the team at one point or the other are no longer with the team and Anthony Wolfe has been the only foreigner to be with the team since the start. The team appears unsettled and disorganized as a result of these frequent changes and is yet to settle down. The defense has been a cause of concern for the Flaming Oranje as they have let in 22 goals this season, the highest ever by any team till now. The recent addition of Odafa Okolie has added teeth to the Sporting attack but it will take a herculean effort from the side to avoid the drop
I League Matches
A Sony Norde masterclass helped Mohun Bagan beat Salgaocar 3-1 at the Barasat stadium and maintain their position at the top of the table. Playing sans Balwant Singh, Bagan looked toothless upfront in the first half but found their rhythm in the second half with Sony Norde at the heart of most of the Bagan moves. Denson Devdas got a touch to a wonderful delivery from Norde to give Bagan a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute but Salgaocar equalized a minute later through Augustin Fernandes with Dohou Pierre grabbing the assist. Katsumi put Bagan back into the lead following a goal melee resulting from a Sony Norde corner in the 70th minute while the match was put beyond doubt in the 85th minute when Norde unleashed a venomous shot from outside the box which gave Subrata Paul no chance in the Salgaocar goal no chance.
The match between second placed Bengaluru FC and third placed Royal Wahingdoh was billed as the match of the round and the encounter lived upto its billing. The match which ended in a 3-3 draw saw some wonderful football with Wahingdoh in particular dishing out an attacking brand of football which kept Bengaluru on the back foot for most of the match. Kim converted from the spot in the 15th minute following a handball by Walker to give the visitors the lead. Robin Singh equalized for the hosts in the 39th minute from the corner but Wahingdoh went into the lead three minutes later courtesy a powerful strike from Godwin Franco from just outside the box. Shankar Sampingiraj then turned in a Eugeneson Lyngdoh free kick to equalize once again for the defending champions on the stroke of the hour mark. Bengaluru then went ahead in the 70th minute after Walker converted from the spot when Rooney was brought down by Prem Kumar in the box. Reagan Singh equalized for the Santosh Kashyap side four minutes later and it remained as 3-3 for the remainder of the match.
Shillong Lajong brought Mumbai FC’ s unbeaten run at the Cooperage to an end as they hammered six past Khalid Jamil’ s team on the first matchday of round 14. Cornell Glen opened the scoring in the 21st minute with Len Doungel grabbing the assist while Penn Orji doubled the lead four minutes later after his deflected shot gave goalkeeper Nidhin Lal no chance. The third goal came courtsey Ralte just after the game resumed after the breather. Orji and Glen combined well with the Trinidad & Tobago intentional finishing it to make it 4-0 for the visitors and Orji then combined well with Uilliams in the 82nd minute allowing the Brazilian to score the fifth goal of the night. Milan Singh made it six on the night with a beautiful volley goal in the stoppage time.
Dempo and Sporting Club de Goa played out an entertaining 2-2 draw which did the neither of the two teams any good. Amiri headed Dempo into the lead in the 23rd minute after Sporting goalkeeper Lalit Thapa spilled a regular corner from Jewel Raja. Victorino Fernandes restored parity right on the stroke of half time heading home a cross from Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amenah who beat Calum Angus with his pace down the right. Odafa Okolie who has having a lively game so far headed Flaming Oranje into the lead in the 68th minute Cajetan Fernandes’ corner but Afghan skipper Amiri saved the blushes for Dempo as he headed in the equalizer off Francis Fernandes cross in the 89th minute.
Pune FC and Bharat FC played out a 1-1 draw in the first ever Pune derby. Fanai Lalrempuia scored opener in the fourth minute with Kiwi striker equalizing in the 32nd minute. With the draw Pune retained their fourth spot int the table while newbies Bharat FC continued to be at the eight spot.