Five things to learn from this weekend's I-League matches

With another action packed of the I-League coming to an end, lists 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 Machines are going through a bad patch

The recent few fixtures have been the worst of the season for Churchill Brothers. Their last memorable win came against East Bengal, when they defeated the Kolkata giants 3-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium. Life has not been easy since then, as they have faced a plethora of problems. 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 few games. Also the team has scored only two goals in the last three outings, as the strikers haven't been in top form. In the process, the team has managed to add only a couple of points to their tally, out of the possible nine. The Goan side which looked rampant a couple of weeks back look suspect and have allowed the likes of East Bengal to go ahead in the standings.

Dempo not in their usual vein

The side, which has often been hailed as the most consistent over the last decade, seems to have lost the plot this time around. The defending champions now have 35 points from their 19 outings and are placed third in the league table. But the statistics are quite misleading, as the team has failed to dominate their opponents as they usually do. With the talismanic Ranti Martins leaving over the summer, the club has suffered up front with none of their players being capable to score 30-odd goals in a season. Ryuji Sueoka, who had been instrumental in Dempo’s journey to the finals of Federation Cup, has been injured for most of the league campaign. The signings of the foreign players flopped big time with the Rohan Ricketts gamble failing to take off. Koko Sakibo hasn't been at his best and the signing of John Menyongar has come a tad too late.

It's a 90 minute game!

United Sikkim fans were left heartbroken after their side went down to ONGC at home with an Eric Brown coming in nearly at the end of full-time. The Snow Lions dominated the proceedings and created several goal scoring opportunities for their strikers, however they failed to convert them. The back-line did a commendable job in keeping ONGC attackers at bay only for 88 minutes though. A lapse in concentration and from a counterattack, ONGC found the back of the net. Nathan Hall was left surprised as he couldn't believe what he saw. It must be noted that the side has certainly imporved under their new Australian coach.

Mariners are the team to watch out for

With all the controversies left behind, the Mariners are looking a formidable side lately. They put on an impressive performance against the arch-rivals East Bengal. With Odafa Okolie back from suspension and Tolgay Ozbey returning from injury, they can now boast of one of the best strike forces of the nation. The midfield has been a cause of concern throughout the season for them with the young Indian players like Denson Devadas and Jewel Raja underperforming. However, the co-ordination between Echezona Anyichie and Aibor Khongjee has developed with time, and Nirmal Chettri and Syed Rahim Nabi being the two full backs, the defence has begun to look solid. Bagan is battling to save relegation and needs to win most of their remaining fixtures to keep their hopes alive. As most of the title-contenders have matches left against them, this talented side can turn out to be decisive to a large extent in the title-race.

Nobody wants to win the league!

A common feature for the last couple of weeks has been that the title-contenders are dropping points consistently. Though Pune FC got back to winning tracks after losing 3 of their last 4 matches; Churchill, East Bengal and Dempo failed to notch up a win. While Churchill and East Bengal could at least gather a point each, Dempo lost to 1-2 to Air India. At a time when most of the teams are dropping points, a win could increase one of the side's chances to win the title. East Bengal are now only one point ahead at the top of the table having played two matches more than Churchill. If they are to win the league, they must capitalize on every chance that comes their way henceforth. Churchill has a number of tough fixtures left, including two against the in-form Mohun Bagan. Given the way Churchill has played in the last few matches, they have to put on their best to entertain any hope of silverwares. With the teams being so close at the top, the league is still wide open.

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