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I-League Qualifiers 2020 Matchday 4: Black Panthers claw their way back into the I-League

I-League Qualifiers 2020 Matchday 4: Black Panthers claw their way back into the I-League
Mohammedan SC will feature in the I-League for the first time since 2013-14.

Mohammedan Sporting Club shook off the challenge of local rivals, Bhawanipore FC, to qualify for the 2020-21 I-League season. The Black Panthers will be back in the tournament after a gap of seven years. They were last relegated in the 2013-14 season and haven’t been back up since.

Garhwal FC earned a point to sign off from the I-League Qualifiers at the bottom of the table following their 1-1 draw against ARA FC.

Clinical Mohammedan keep Bhawanipore at arm’s length

Mohammedan Sporting Club secured their spot in the 2020-21 I-League season following a 2-0 win over local rivals Bhawanipore FC at the Kalyani Stadium.

The win takes Mohammedan to nine points, while Bhawanipore are with six points. Both teams have one match to play, however Mohammedan’s superior head-to-head record ensured that they will stay top of the group.

The match started with Mohammedan on the front foot with Vanlalbiaa Chhangte forcing Shilton Paul into a save in the third minute.

Mohammedan kept possession of the ball while Bhawanipore looked to play on the counter. Philip Adjah came close to giving Bhawanipore the lead when he latched on to a weak clearance and his shot from the edge of the penalty area hit the post.

Chhangte gave Mohammedan the deserved lead when he latched on a pass from Faiaz before rounding off the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 in the 27th minute. The Mizo winger has had a major role in Mohammedan’s fortunes in the tournament.

Bhawanipore responded strongly in search of an equalizer on either side of the half. Pankaj Moula headed wide, while Subhankar Das tried his luck from a distance. Philip Adjah was presented with the best opportunity when he beat two defenders, but conspired to shoot straight at Priyant.

The missed chances came to bite them back substitute Gani Nigam made them pay in the 67th minute. A Safiul Rahaman free-kick from the right made its way to Nigam at the far post. The U-22 player chested the ball and slotted home through Shilton’s legs.

2-0 and game over for sure.

To their credit, Bhawanipore continued to pour forward. Jiten Murmu appeared to halve the deficit when he headed Avinabo Bag’s cross on target. Priyant’s acrobatics ensured that the scoreline stayed down.

In the end, the favourites did what was expected of them. Dominate the proceedings and keep up with the tradition of at least one Kolkata-based team featuring in the I-League.

On the last matchday on Monday, Mohammedan Sporting will face FC Bengaluru United at the VYBK Stadium while Bhawanipore will take on ARA FC in Kalyani.

Did someone say “Match-Thread”?

Want an in-depth look at how Mohammedan SC set-up against their city rivals in the all-important clash?
Scroll to the bottom of the post for a tactical outlook by our analyst Shlok.

Garhwal’s Himalayan blunders gift ARA FC a point

Garhwal FC failed to take their chances while giving ARA FC multiple opportunities to score in an entertaining I-League Qualifiers match at the Salt Lake Stadium.

The Dehi-based team started well and took a deserved lead in the 17th minute. A set piece play saw Bala Alhassan’s floated ball into the box being met by Neeraj Bhandari’s diving header.

After all the good work, Garhwal gifted ARA the opportunity to level the scores minutes before the half time whistle. Rahul Das with a foul on Pratik Swamy inside the box.

ARA Striker Shoaib Ahmed saw his effort fly high over the top right corner – much to the dismay of his team.

After the break, Garhwal started even better with Mahip Adhikari’s volley bouncing off the crossbar in the 50th minute. At the other end, Ahmed nearly made amends for his miss only to hit the side netting.

Afdal Varikoddan should have doubled the score on two occasions. The first chance was after a wonderful counter attack with Adhikari carrying the ball before squaring the ball to Varikoddan, but the forward’s weak shot was blocked easily. The second saw Melroy Fernandes save from point blank range.

A few minutes later, ARA FC were presented with yet another penalty. A long ball by Prabin Tigga found Stanley Eze who was fouled when he was going for goal.

Surajit Seal stepped up to the spot and sent Barai the wrong way to make it 1-1 in the 83rd minute.

Both teams pushed for a goal in the dying minutes, but had to be content with sharing the spoils.

Garhwal FC ended their campaign at the bottom with a solitary point on the table, while ARA FC has two points from three games and will face Bhawanipore FC at the Kalyani Stadium on the final matchday.

I-League Qualifiers 2020 Table after Matchday 4

1Mohammedan SC33007169
2Bhawanipore FC32014316
3FC Bengaluru United311123-14
4ARA FC302136-32
5Garhwal FC401325-31
Mohammedan SC are through with a better H2H record over Bhawanipore FC with a game to spare.

Here is the always-excellent Shlok with his analysis of the title decider between Mohammedan SC and Bhawanipore FC with this delightful thread: 

An attempt at analyzing MDSC vs Bhowanipore FC. Taking a break from numbers and heatmaps, wanted to do a match analysis because I hadn't done it in a while. Here we go!
First off, simple stuff – line-ups. Contrary to what is shown, Mabiaa was on the RW and Subhash was on the left

So how did MDSC build up their play? Multiple ways.
1. Pass it out from the back. Ripon (RB, #6) played narrow and formed a triangle with Balwinder and Suraj. Once the ball was beyond Suraj, or if Firoz came in midfield, Ripon could go ahead on the right flank

From Suraj, they tried to find Faiaz who liked operating between the lines. He was relieved of his defensive duties and combined with Hira (LB) and Subhash (LW) on the left. He would also take up central spaces if Plaza dropped deep or went wide to support (more on this soon)

Apart from trying to go through Faiaz and the flanks, MDSC also played directly. Since Bhowanipore sat back and didn't press, Eze had enough time on the ball to pick out a man. Plaza was the target, and his knocked down balls were attacked by Faiaz, Firoz and Mabiaa

Since Bhawanipore were very counter-attacking, it was hard to notice a resting defensive formation for MDSC. Whenever B'pore started to progress with the ball, they were hounded out by the Black Panthers. They focused on disrupting play and weren't afraid to give away fouls

The back 4 and double pivot of Suraj and Firoz did extremely well to contain Adjah, as they regularly hassled him and gave him no place to break out. B'pore's reluctance of putting bodies ahead hurt them as they were severely outnumbered.

No official line-up for Bhowanipore that I could find so here's my attempt at it:
Supriya Pankaj Subhankar Anup
Arijit Kinshuk Bikramjit Enjamul

Throughout the course of the qualifiers, B'pore have maintained great defensive discipline. They form two compact lines and have a player like Monotosh act as a screen in between. He can join the midfield or the defense based on which of his team-mates is jumping out to press.

They also managed to hold their shape and restrict passing lanes. This made it difficult for teams to progress between their lines and forced them to be direct. The lack of ball-playing mids in IL Qualifiers was well spotted by B'pore

In attack, Adjah was often isolated. Though Supriya, Anup and Arijit progressed on their respective wings, it was very rare to see them attacking together. Pankaj Moula tried to step in as a second striker at times but was mostly confined to the midfield

But this wasn't B'pore's plan to begin with. They knew they were most effective on the counter. They would attract pressure on the ball-holder and immediately release it into space. Though this worked against other teams, MDSC did well to hold their shape and disrupt BWFC's play.

Moving on to the highlight of the first half – Mohammedan's goal. 👇

This was where the move began. A long ball was played to Plaza who headed it wide to Mabia. He too, goes wide to support Mabia and forms a promising 2v2 with decent space around them.

In the first photo, Mabiaa gets the ball in the box after a quick one-two with Plaza. He sees that there is very little space, so he passes it back into the midfield (outside the pic). The ball comes back from the mid and finds Plaza at the edge of the box.

Mabiaa is in a dangerous area and Plaza has the ball at the edge of the box. He does well to beat the defenders and find Faiaz inside the box (sliding). Faiaz lays it off to Mabiaa who was completely unmarked and is through on goal. 1-0 to @MohammedanSC

That closes our analysis of the first half. The next 45 minutes were difficult to analyze because @1SportsInLive decided to cut their livestream midway and didn’t announce certain subs. On to the second half, keep reading if you’re still interested (somehow)

MDSC brought in Gani Ahmed in place of Subhash. Decent sub, considering the fact that he ended up scoring. The goal in itself was due to poor defending, but it did well to quash BWFC's hopes.
All in all, MDSC played in a pretty consistent manner

BWFC on the other hand made many changes. They brought in Avinabo for Enjamul (LB). He brought in a more attacking presence. Murmu came on for Bikramjit (CB) and Gopi on for Supriya (LM).

After all the changes, it looked a bit like this:
Murmu Adjah
Anup Pankaj Altamash Gopi
Arijit Kinshuk Monotosh Avinabo

Avinabo played a very attacking role. By default, he would be closer to the midfield than the defense. With Gopi Singh drifting in centrally, Avinabo was able to run down the right wing freely. This left BWFC with a 3-back and a double pivot that sat deep

Anup had switched flanks from RW to LW and stayed wide. Murmu came deeper to link up play and connect. I feel that Gopi was still underused, he could have provided a lot more had he been given the ball more often.

BWFC did end up attacking more later on, but they almost conceded a 3rd had it not been for Rijal missing a sitter. The match ended in an expected manner, 2-0 to @MohammedanSC. Congratulations to the Black Panthers for making it to I-League.

I know the language and structuring of this thread is all over the place, apologies. RTs/Shares appreciated, and would love to hear your thoughts on it!

Originally tweeted by shlok (@KeepItRowllin) on 16th October 2020.

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