I-League comment: Five things we learned from Round 11

Goal.com looks back at all the 6 matches played on matchday 11 and lists down the main 5 lessons that the I-League followers learned last weekend....
The last weekend of I-League witnessed everything -upsets, downfalls, goal-fests and memorable performances. League toppers Dempo SC were thrashed 1-5 at their home ground by Pune FC. East Bengal’s unbeaten run in the league was ended by a Ranti Martins inspired Prayag United. Another match at the Fatorda stadium saw a goals galore, as an inspired Churchill side thumped 8-4 against Sporting Clube de Goa. Goal.com looks back at all the action and lists 5 things that we have learnt from the 11th round of the league.

Be aware of Prayag and Ranti

Ranti Martins goalscoring prowess hasn't been affected by his switch from Goa to Kolkata. He scored the only goal of the Prayag United - East Bengal fixture. Uga Okpara and Arnab Mondal did well to contain the striker, but he capitalized on the only chance he got in the match, by heading in a Lalkamal Bhowmick corner. Even Trevor Morgan, the East Bengal coach, lauded his finishing after the match. Carlos Hernandez was elegant in the midfield with his pinpoint passing and off the ball movements. With talented players in almost every position, Prayag could yet mount a title challenge this campaign.

The only problem is their inconsistency. They have beaten the other two big clubs of Kolkata comprehensively, but were surprisingly defeated by many low-profile teams. Eelco Schattorie, their new Dutch coach, has been impressive with his tactical understanding of the game. The team must build on this by winning a few games on the trot and building momentum for the title challenge.

Pune FC should aim for the title

Over the last couple of seasons, Pune FC have not quite been able to kick-on and challenge for the title, after finishing third in their first season in the top division. However this could finally be the campaign where they climb to the top, as the squad seems to have a perfect mix of experience and talent.

Summer signings James Moga and Khangthang Paite have settled in well at the squad. Paite especially has been a revelation, and though the Red Lizards do seem a bit short in central midfield, overall the roster has good quality and depth. With an intelligent coach like Derrick Pereira at the helm, this is a golden chance for the Pune-based side to add some silverware to their bare trophy cabinet.

Nathan Hall has to do wonders

The newly-promoted United Sikkim side has not won a single match after their inspiring victory over Salgaocar FC in the opening rounds of fixtures of the season. Their newly appointed 27-year old coach Nathan Hall has also not been immediately able to change their fate as his side suffered a 0-1 loss against Mumbai FC. The team, mostly packed with youngsters, will have to fight hard to stay out of the relegation zone. Hall, the latest of many foreign coaches in the league, has got a lot of things to do to change the situation. Perhaps Bhaichung Bhutia, a legend of Indian football, could provide the inspiration the Snow Lions are in desperate need of.

'No Penn, no gain'

Penn Orji has been the pivot of the East Bengal midfield for the last two and a half seasons. Whenever he has been marked well by the opponents, East Bengal has struggled to get goals. With only three foreigners in the side, the unit also lacks a prolific foreign striker. The responsibility of scoring is largely on Chidi Edeh, but it is quite obvious that he will not succeed in every match, as his finishing is largely hit-and-miss. Since none of the other midfielders of East Bengal, namely Mehtab Hussain, Ishfaq Ahmed and Harmanjot Khabra are attacking ones, Penn has the main responsibility of supplying the through-balls to the strikers. Morgan has to find a plan-B for the matches where Penn gets heavily marked like the game against Prayag. Cavin Lobo, the young Indian midfielder can be a good replacement for Penn, while Lalrindika Ralte must surely see more game-time.

Foreigners drive Churchill Brothers forward

Churchill's 8-4 win over Sporting Clube de Goa has placed them level on points Dempo SC with 25 points from 11 games. This shall come as a surprise to those who expected the Goans to be nothing more than a mid-table side this campaign, as they lost important players like Arindam Bhattacharya, Gouramangi Moirangthem and Lalrindika Ralte. However their quartet of foreigners, Bilal Najjarine, Beto, Akram Moghrabi, and Henry Antchouet have dragged the team to the top. Lebanese International Najjarine has been imperious at the back, while his countryman Moghrabi has linked-up well with Beto in attack. With Salgaocar fighting against relegation and Sporting being a regular mid-table side, the Red Machines will be the other contenders alongwith Dempo to retain the title in Goa.

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