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Notes from the I-League 2020-21 [Round 10]

I-League 2020-21 Round 10
Over the wall: Players keep an eye on the ball following a free kick by Ngangbam Singh in the I-League match
between Gokulam Kerala FC and Sudeva Delhi FC. Picture Courtesy: Gokulam Kerala FC

Mohammedan SC’s last gasp win will see them slug it out with TRAU and Aizawl FC for a top six spot. Also, Mason Robertson has been bossing around the I-League.

Mohammedan SC stay alive with last gasp winner

130 years of history was in balance for Mohammedan SC in Round 10 of the I-League.  After back-to-back losses, the much-fancied Kolkata team were in danger of dropping into the bottom half of the table.

It was 1-1 after 90 minutes as Chennai City defended stubbornly with 10 men. Four minutes were added on and it was now or never for the Black Panthers.

Then came a bolt from the blue. Literally.

Suraj Rawat, a midfielder who had stints with Indian Arrows and Kerala Blasters, had never scored at the senior level. He picked this moment to cream the ball from 25 yards to give his team the three points.

The celebrations were glorious and one could feel the collective sigh of relief in the Mohammedan camp.

Absolutely marvellous.

Mason helps Kashmir build a solid base 

Mason Robertson can do little wrong on the football field. Trailing by a goal against Aizawl FC, the Real Kashmir skipper decided to take matters in his own hands. He exemplified that by taking a throw in and invariably allowing  Lukman to head the ball in goal to make it 1-1.

In the second half he waltzed into the Aizawl penalty area and find himself with enough time to head in a free kick and give his team the lead.

He followed that up with a howitzer of a freekick to make the Aizawl keeper look silly. 3-1 and Real Kashmir remain unbeaten in the league in second place.

When the coach’s son marshals one of the meanest defence in the league and leads the scoring charts for the team, it is not nepotism, it’s knowing what’s best for your team.

It’s very close in the fight for the top six

Aizawl, Mohammedan, and TRAU are in the mix for the battle of the top six.

Sudeva, Chennai City, NEROCA, and Indian Arrows will slug it out in the bottom half, but all eyes will be on the three clubs as they take to the field on the 28th of February.

In an early kick-off, Mohammedan SC (13 points) has a tough assignment against Real Kashmir. David Robertson’s side has been a tough nut to crack this season and the result will either settle Mohammedan nerves or leave them praying for a miracle.

TRAU (13 points) will face Sudeva in the 4 pm kick-off. The Manipuri team has plenty of firepower up front, but they also have a leaky defence. Sudeva on the other hand scored 3/4th of their goals in two big wins, but have picked up only one point in the last three matches. This could go either way.

Aizawl (12 points) will face Chennai City in the 7 pm kick-off. The Mizo team has a slight advantage given that they will know the earlier results. Chennai City has lost three on the trot and the team based out of Coimbatore (but uses the name of another city) could just decide to drag their opponents through the mud.

Broken Arrow? Naah, just Little Boy

You got to feel for the youngsters at Indian Arrows.

Played 10. Won 1. Drew 1. Lost 8. GD -25. 

They will have to endure four more matches and it could get worse. But then there was the 1-0 win over Mohammedan and a last-gasp goal to draw against Aizawl. Coincidentally, it’s those two teams who will have to fight to guarantee their survival in the I-League.

There have been players that caught the eye, Vanlalruatfela Thlacheu, Gurkirat Singh and, of course, Ricky Shabong.

Shabong has had humble beginnings. He helped his father break stones at a mine near Shillong in order to support his family. After getting drafted into the Royal Wahingdoh youth setup, AIFF came calling and his reputation began to grow. Last year, East Bengal were rumoured to be interested in his signature, but the move did not materialize.

It won’t be long before he gets snapped up. The same can be said about the other two. So all in all, it’s not that bad for the young players.

From Singapura to Koyambatoor

Here’s an interview with Chennai City’s Iqbal Hussain. The forward has represented the Singapore National Team and has become the first Singaporean to play professionally in Indian football.

Chennai City has had the Singapore connection for a while now. Coach Akbar Nawas, who led the team to their first ever title in 2018-19 is from Singapore. His replacement, Satyasagara, is another Singaporean.

The forward talks about the simple joys of life like travelling in an autorickshaw, watching Bollywood and Tamil movies, and adjusting to the new environment. Give it a watch.

The Goal Scoring Ratio

Round 10 saw Indian players outscore the foreign recruits 8:6.

Churchill Brothers striker Clayvin Zuniga has taken his tally to six goals to lead the goal scoring charts in the I-League. Lukman Adefemi, Mason Robertson, and Komron Tursanov also found the back of the net to take their personal tally to five goals each.

TRAU FC’s Khangembam Bidyashagar Singh scored a brace to lead the goal scoring charts among Indian players with his four goals.

The overall tally after Round 10 looks like this:

Foreign players – 63
Indian players – 58
Own goals – 3

And finally… Here’s a great angle on the free kick by Indian Arrows midfielder, Harsh Patre. A curler to the top corner to leave the TRAU keeper swatting the bugs in the Kalyani Stadium.

Don’t let the final score of Indian Arrows 1-5 TRAU FC take away the fact that this was a great strike.

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