I-League round up Matchweek 16

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Churchill Brothers SC ( D’Souza 69 ) 1-3 Aizwal FC ( Stephane Kamo Bayi 7, 46; L. Ralte 85 )

Aizwal FC have come so far on this remarkable odyssey that they are now in a pole position to win the I-League title. A 3-1 win over Churchill Brothers SC saw them climb the top of the I-League ladder, only to come back on the second position after Bagan defeated Minerva Punjab later on Saturday.

Aizwal FC walked off the pitch to a remarkable ovation not just from the away supporters but a large section of the home crowd as well at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco on Saturday.

Kamo Bayi struck a brave to give his team a comfortable two goal advantage inside the first 46 minutes, and even though Anthony D’Souza pulled a goal back with plenty of time left on the clock, Laldanmawia Ralte calmed everyone’s nerve with a stunning finishing in the end.

Churchill had started the game reasonably well and while it was goalkeeper Albino’s leap of faith which prevented the hosts from surging ahead in the fourth minute when Chesterpoul Lyngdoh connected a header off Meldon D’Silva’s swinging free-kick from the right. The ball took a slight deflection from Aizawl goalkeeper Albino Gomes before crashing against the upright.

Four minutes later, Aizawl took the lead. It was Kamo who capitalised on a defensive lapse to give Aizwal the lead. Whether it was deserving remains debatable but it was certainly a gift as Churchill’s defenders tired themselves in a knot while keeping a tab on Brandon Vanlalremdika, allowing Kamo to slot the ball home.

The Aizwal duo combined to give the visitors the second goal immediately after resumption. It was another case of shambolic defence as Brandon ran on the left to meet Al Amna’s ball and then sent a pass on to his partner who simply rolled the ball into the empty net.

Churchill were always in this game, even though at times they appeared far from their best. Quick substitutions from Derrick Pereira saw the introduction of Anthony D’Souza S and the winger respond by scoring from an acute angle. But Aizwal had the last laugh after catching Churchill on the counter when Laldanmawia Ralte found the top corner from just outside the box.

Shillong Lajong FC 0-2 Bengaluru FC ( S. Chettri 26, H. Khabra 49 )

Sunil Chettri and Harmanjot Khabra powered Bengaluru FC past Shillong Lajong FC in Shillong on Saturday in what turned out to be a pretty one sided affair.

The strikes from Chettri and Khabra also meant that the defending champions leapfrogged Lajong to the fourth spot on the table on better goal difference after both teams finished the round with 24 points from 16 games.

Singto fielded the same Lajong starting XI that played out a 1-1 draw in their previous match against Mohun Bagan. But Alberto Roca made as many as four changes from the starting lineup that defeated Aizwal FC.

While Khabra was back from suspension, Roca also gave a start to Marjan Jugovic. The other inclusion were midfielder Alwyn Geroge and Arindam Bhattacharya at the goal.

Shillong controlled the possession initally and tried hard to get an early breakthrough. However, out of nowhere, came the Chettri goal. With the visitors hardly finding any space near the lajong box till then, in the 26th minute, the BFC skipper found a pass just outside the box. He created some space for himself and slotted the ball past GK Vishal Kaith, with the lajong defence caught napping for a moment.

The second half started on an exciting note as the hosts came really close to registering the equalizer. Isaac Vanmalsawma laid a beautiful ball into the box as Chinglensana Singh was present to make contact with the delivery but he was unable to keep his header low which saw the ball sway over the post.

The misery kept pilling on the home team as they conceded another goal in the 49th minute. Nishu Kumar, who had been impressing on the left flank throughout the match, sent a cross into the box which was headed down perfectly by Harmanjot Khabra. Nim Dorjee tried to clear but could only find the back of the net with his clearance.

Since conceding the second goal, Singto’s youngsters looked tired and out of sorts.

Minerva Punjab FC 0-1 Mohun Bagan A.C ( Sony Norde 84 )

Desperately needing a victory to keep their I-League title hopes alive, Mohun Bagan were kept waiting for 84 minutes by a spirited Minerva Punjab before the mercurial Sony Norde turned things on his head to bag all the the points for his team.

Minerva charged out on a counter attack in the 84th minute but the move was filled by Bagan near the centre-circle. The ball looped over two Minerva players and fell in the path of Sony Norde. The Haitian raced into the Minerva box and deftly placed it past Arshdeep Singh for the winner.

The visitors were just a shadow of themselves against Minerva on Saturday and the 3 matches within 7 day was probably the reason they “were not as quick, sharp or strong”, as Sanjoy Sen put it, against an opposition that almost got a week to recover from their last match.

The win keeps the Green and Maroons at the top of the table with 33 points from 16 matches, the same as Aizwal FC but ahead of them on head to head count.

Sanjoy Sen brought in Jeje in the starting 11 in place of Balwant Singh and also handed U-22 player Pintu Mahata a start ahead of Azharuddin Mallick. It, however didn’t have any bearing on Bagan’s display in the first half. The Green and Maroons struggled with their build-up play and lacked enterprise in the final-third. Minerva, on the other hand, defended in numbers and marked Sony very closely.

Sen replaced Pintu with Prabir Das in the 25th minute but even that failed to change the script. Sony ran down the left flank a couple of times but invariably got crowded out as Minerva defended in numbers.

In the second half Darryl Duffy got two glit-edged opportunities while Pritam Kotal’s dipping volley went narrowly over the bar.

Sen threw in Balwant for Pabir in desperation. The move added more impetus to Bagan’s attacks. Moinuddin did we to keep awaya Katsumi Yusa cross from going in after Arshdeep got a hand to it and Duffy was guilty of failing to keep his free header off a corner kick in the 80th minute.

Bagan missed many chances and it was due to their GK Arshdeep Singh that Minerva Punjab were in the match for such a long period of time. Jeje had a chance to double the lead in the added-on time with a clever cheap but Arshdeep Singh denied him with a diving save.

East Bengal 0-1 DSK Shivajians ( Jerry Mawihmingthanga 29 )

Kolkata giants East Bengal had all hopes of winning the I-League title vanquished when they were beaten 0-1 at home by DSK Shivajians, thanks to a 29th-minute winner from Jerry Mawihmingthanga.

Trevor Morgan made five changes in EB’s starting XI that were outclassed by MB in the Kolkata Derby. Wedson Anselme, Romeo Fernandes and Robert Lalthlamuana were dropped. Willis Plaza was serving his first game out suspended and Rehenesh TP was sent back to Kerala after the ‘middle finger incident’ midweek.

DSK Shivajians went in with an unchanged lineup from their 2-3 defeat at the hands of Shillong Lajong last weekend.

East Bengal’s defensive frailties saw the visitors take the upper hand early on as Seityasen Singh and Mawihmingthanga took shots at goal. The latter could have gone on to register a hat-trick inside 20 minutes but the teenager lacked the intent upfront.

Chris Payne missed as many as five chances to break the deadlock.

But in the 29th minute, Mawihmingthanga finally broke the deadlock. Halicharan Narzary played to Juan Quero from the corner and hr crossed the ball high over GK Subhasish Roy Chowdhury as Jerry jumped up inside the box and headed it home diligently.

Subrata Paul pulled off a double save moments later to deny Rowllin Borges from seven yards and Bikash Jairu hit the rebound straight to the GK.

Chris Payne’s bad form continued as he missed a sitter from close range and a ball from Jackichand was staved off by Sasa Kolunija near the goalline all within a minute.

Subrata Paul defied critics in the last fifteen minutes of the game as he pulled off three vital saves to deny East Bengal any hope of a comeback.

Mumbai FC 0-0 Chennai City FC

Mumbai FC played out a goalless draw against Chennai City FC in a 16th round I-League football match in Mumbai on Sunday. Head coach Oscar Bruzon threw in a team with a 4-2-3-1 formation which saw centre-back Pratik Chaudhary feature in the defence. Midfielder Thoi Singh returned on the flanks for the Mumbai outfit after recovering from a knee injury. Alex Willian Silva was sidelined on account of low match fitness and fellow Brazilian Anderson Raimundo took charge of the proceedings up front. Mumbai will now host Shillong Lajong FC in their penultimate round match on April 23.