Five things to learn from the weekend's I-League action

As the last weekend of I-League saw some major upsets, takes a look at 5 points to ponder over.....
As another action-packed weekend in the I-League comes to an end, lists 5 lessons that should be learnt from these matches.

The Red Machine needs some oiling

Until two weeks ago, Churchill Brothers were the hot favourites to win the I-League, after thumping the second placed East Bengal side 3-0. But life has not been easy since then as their star performer of the season and the leader of the defense, Bilal Najjarin has left the team after receiving a lucrative offer from Fujairah SC of UAE. In the absence of the Lebanese International, the defense has looked porous in the last game against Sporting Clube de Goa. Also the team has failed to score in the last two outings which is an indication that the team is too reliant on their foreign contingent. In the process, the team has managed to add only a single point to their tally, out of the possible six. This has resulted in the Red Machines slip-up in the title race. They are currently in the second spot, having played two games less and being a point behind East Bengal. In a marathon league of 26 matches, every team has its ups and downs. Churchill has to come out of this bad patch very soon as they have severak tough fixtures coming their way.

Red and Gold are back on track again

The future looked gloomy when the Kolkata giants left the field after the 0-3 humiliation in the hands of Churchill Brothers around 15 days ago. But since then the wheel of fate has made their chances much brighter than even their die hard supporters could anticipate. All the other three title contenders - Dempo SC, Churchill and Pune FC have dropped points this weekend and East Bengal put on an impressive performance against Pailan Arrows to notch up a 2-1 win. This takes East Bengal to the top of the table, though they have played more matches than their immediate rivals in the title race. But the Trevor Morgan-led side will definitely try to capitalize the chance that has come their way. They have a tough fixture coming up next, as they face city rivals Mohun Bagan in the derby. The advantage for East Bengal is they will get the opportunity of playing 6 of their 7 remaining matches before the home crowd.

Red Lizards have lost the plot

The season was heading to be a memorable one for the Pune FC side, until their form nosedived completely as they went on to lose 3 of their last 4 matches. While the Red Lizards have usually been guilty been wasteful in front of goal, the game against Salgaocar FC saw them fail to create opportunities instead, as stated by coach Derrick Pereira. Virtually, Pune have got the service of five foreign players as Arata Izumi has got his Indian citizenship only at the start of this season. Over the last couple of years, Pune FC has always looked a formidable side, but always had to settle for a mid-table finish. The last match was a good wake up call for the Red Lizards. The team has a good number of talented young players. Unless they get back to the winning streets fast, the title hopes will keep waning further.

Mariners set to start a happy voyage

This has been one of the most forgettable seasons for Mohun Bagan as they have faced all sorts of negative publicity over the last few months. But they are now back into the mix and their 3-1 win over ONGC  probably showcased the squad’s mettle possibly for the first time this season. At the start of the season, the officials had build the side around the pairing of Tolgay Ozbey and Odafa Okolie. However this was the first time the two foreign strikers played together in the I-League this season without any injury worries and the outcome clearly indicated how lethal the duo can get. Tolgay scored a brilliant goal and Odafa netted one and provided two assists. The Nigerian striker, especially has been talismanic this season, scoring goals at will. Mohun Bagan also have the motivation of saving themselves from relegation. Churchill have two matches remaining against them, while other title contenders have one fixture remaining. It will not be an exaggeration to predict that Mohun Bagan will take a big role in deciding the winners of the league.

New foreigners set to catch the eye

Many of the I-League teams are bringing in new foreigners recently. Salgaocar has brought in three new faced and has started to reap the benefits. Same story holds for Sporting Clube de Goa also. United Sikkim have also brought in a few new players, who are yet to be tested. Spanish is the new flavour of the league as a number of footballers from the European nation have been introduced in the last couple of weeks including the likes of Angel Berlanga (pictured) and Juan Francisco Garcia Pena. Known faces like Quinton Jacobs will again face the litmus test, as he is now set to play a crucial role in Bagan’s struggle for existence in the top division after failing in his Salgaocar adventure.

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