The power of immunity in the I-League; Imphal is the new Kolkata; and a goal faster than Usain Bolt.
New season, New format
Reality shows are fun to watch if you do not take it too seriously. The best part is when a participant knows that he/she has immunity – which means that the contestant cannot be eliminated from the show’s competition.
In a revised format, all teams will play each other once. After 10 rounds of games, the pool will be split into two. The top six teams will fight for the title in the championship stage and the bottom five will fight to stay in the division in the relegation stage.
Keep an eye out after the teams get split into the top and bottom halves. For added spice, throw in Indian Arrows and Sudeva FC on the probable bottom half and watch three other teams slug it out for survival in the I-League.
As the pandemic wears on, immunity is a wonderful word.
Sometimes you have to acknowledge a great team goal
Gokulam Kerala FC will miss their fervent fans in the home match. To compensate the lack of home matches, they announced the launch of their official merchandise store. The “First Indian club to launch a Official Merchandise store!” they claimed.
Their rivals, Chennai City FC is a paradox. The name belongs to one city while they play at another: Coimbatore. Then there is the instance when they played their AFC Champions League match in Ahmedabad.
Nonetheless, the two teams did not disappoint as the see-saw match was settled by a wonderfully-crafted goal.
Coming in from the left, Vijay Nagappan played a couple of one-two passes with Demir Avdic, the midfielder burst into the box and slotted home from an angle.
Imphal is the New Kolkata
Speaking of derbies, two teams from Manipur slugged it out in the second round when North Eastern Re-Organising Cultural Association (NEROCA FC) faced Tiddim Road Athletic Union Football Club (TRAU FC) in the acronyms derby.
The I-League saw the departure of Kolkata giants
ATK Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to the ISL. With Mohammedan Sporting being the only team from Kolkata, the balance of power has shifted further east to Imphal – at least with the number of representatives.
Both teams comprised primarily Manipuri players, with NEROCA starting only one foreign signing in the squad. As for the match, it was a real derby as the two teams had a combined 32 shots on goal.
Better finishing would have helped and a scoreline of 1-1 ensured that no team has enjoyed a hundred percent start to the league.
Holy Comeback Batman!
In a matchup of the sponsored-state names, Gokulam Kerala FC came from two goals down and netted thrice in the second half to earn a remarkable comeback 4-3 win against RoundGlass Punjab FC.
Chencho Gyeltshen aka “CG7” scored two goals and set up the other as the Bhutanese upped the happiness index for Punjab FC as halftime score read 3-1.
The second half was a tale of twists and turns. Kiran Limbu – the Nepalese custodian – saved Ghanian Dennis Antwi’s penalty to maintain his team’s two-goal lead.
Then came the crazy six minutes when it all fell apart for Punjab. Antwi made amends with two quick goals while Anwar Ali scored an own goal to make it 4-3 in favor of Gokulam.
Blink and you Miss It
Plenty of early goals in the opening rounds.
Dennis Antwi scored in the third minute for Gokulam Kerala in the tie against Chennai City FC. Luka Majcen did one better by scoring in the second minute for Churchill Brothers in their match against Indian Arrows.
The two goals pale in comparison against Komron Tursunov’s effort for TRAU against Real Kashmir. The Tajikistan forward scored the fastest goal in I-League history when he found the target in nine seconds.
The goal eclipsed the record of Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa, who scored within 13 seconds for NEROCA FC against Churchill Brothers in the 2018-19 season.
The Goal Scoring Ratio
To keep the theme of the goals, the foreign signings have outscored the Indian players in the opening two rounds.
The reduction of foreigners in the squad with only three foreigners + one AFC-region foreigner per XI has seen a glut of young players making up the squad. However, with regards to the firepower up top, it is the foreign signings who do the scoring – a theme common across the top leagues in India.
With the top players playing in the Indian Super League, we will keep an eye on how the upcoming Indian players fare in the goal scoring charts. After all, the I-League has been the starting point for footballers across Indian football – just ask the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Brandon Fernandes or Rowllin Borges.
After round two the goal scoring charts is as follows:
Foreign players – 16
Indian players – 11