The I-League continues to be a breeding ground for young Indian talent and the latest round has thrown up three stars who look promising:
Churchill Brothers' Wayne Vaz had his task cut out against Mohun Bagan. He was assigned the responsibility of keeping in check the movements of Sony Norde who has been nothing short of brilliant after making a comeback from a long injury layoff. And the promising right back did not disappoint.
Norde likes to cut inside from the left flank and create space for himself to have a crack at goal and the defender had to ensure that he is not beaten in the wide areas. He shadowed the Haitian from the halfway line but never committed himself to a final tackle to win the ball. He would force Norde to use his pace and run towards the corner which would significantly cut down the space and would leave Norde with no other option but to cross inside the box.
Apart from performing his defensive duties to perfection the FC Pune City loanee was ever present in attack as well. Norde did not bother to track back which made easier for him to build his partnership with right winger Israil Gurung. Gurung and Vaz combined well throughout the match catching Abhishek Ambekar out of position on a couple of occasions as the left back would often run out of wits handling the dual threat.
Mohun Bagan’s Sourav Das is another player who has been ticking all the right boxes at the centre of the park. His partnership with Yuta Kinowaki and Omar Elhusseiny has been blossoming with each passing day and it was on full bloom against league leaders Chennai City FC as well.
Chennai City’s much-famed midfield duo of Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez was the second best for the lion’s share of the match and credit needs to given to Das. As soon as Gordillo or Rodriguez would get the ball, Das would swiftly close them down and try to win back possession.
He has an incredible work rate and if he can sharpen his passing skills, he certainly has the potential to make it big. Sankar Lal Chakraborty must also receive his share of praise for grooming him to be the player he is. In spite of putting in unimpressive shifts in the initial matches of the Calcutta Football League (CFL), Chakraborty continued to back his player and the team is reaping its benefits in the I-League.
Abhash Thapa of Real Kashmir FC has been a revelation for David Robertson. He was definitely not the first choice in the left-back position at the start of the season but his string of consistent performances has forced Robertson to relegate Brian Mascarenhas to the bench.
Call it providence or co-incidence that Thapa was handed his I-League debut against Mohun Bagan, the very team which has nurtured him in his formative years. It was a gamble by Robertson to hand a debut to a player against a formidable side but the teenager did not disappoint.
In a battle between two new faces, Thapa shone brighter as he did not allow Pintu Mahata to play his natural game. Mahata could hardly flourish as he was starved of space and his pace was matched by his opponent which further complicated matters for him, forcing Chakraborty to take him off around the hour mark.
Thapa continued his impressive run of form against Indian Arrows and Aizawl FC as well. Aizawl’s Albert Zohmingmawia was a constant threat to East Bengal in the right flank which earned him a starting berth against Real Kashmir. But the winger had a tough time against Thapa as the latter thwarted his runs on the wings and also prevented him from delivering the crosses. The 20-year-old defender made six successful tackles out of seven which further emphasizes his defensive prowess.