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Notes from the I-League 2020-21 [Round 15]

Air Nepal: Kiran Limbu has kept the highest number of clean sheets in the current I-League campaign.
Photo Courtesy: @ILeagueOfficial

It’s a three-horse race as Gokulam Kerala, TRAU, and Churchill Brothers aim to rein in the I-League trophy! No chance to have a mare or play hoofball!

Horse puns! Yay or neigh?

Gokulam gallop their way to the top

Despite losing its status as the country’s top division to the Indian Super League, the I-League continues to maintain its competitive edge.

It was a day of drama as TRAU FC and Churchill Brothers went head to head with both teams leading the table on 25 points. A hard-fought 90 minutes later, they finished with a 1-1 draw with Luka Majcen’s 28th-minute penalty being canceled out by a 43rd-minute strike from Phalguni Konsam Singh.

The draw gave Gokulam Kerala FC the opportunity to seize the initiative. Vincenzo Annese’s team rode on a brace from Denny Antwi, but with Mohammedan Sporting scoring in the 85th minute, the Malabarians held on to a nervy finish.

At the final whistle, Gokulam went top, owing to better head-to-head. They will now face TRAU in a showdown clash on Saturday.

Permutations for the mane event

The title could be decided on points, head-to-head, or goal difference

For TRAU and Gokulam Kerala, the equation is simple: Win the match and take home the title.

Gokulam has a superior head-to-head record over TRAU and Churchill Brothers. The head-to-head between TRAU and Churchill is deadlocked with both the matches between the two teams ended in a 1-1 scoreline. The Imphal team has a superior goal difference (+11) over Churchill Brothers (+4).

A draw will provide the Malabarians the advantage over TRAU. However, this will allow Churchill to go top if they beat Punjab FC in the last match.

No team from Kerala has won the national league. Similarly, no Manipuri side has won the title either – which makes the results on Saturday significant for the two sides.

Churchill Brothers could win their third I-League title, but they are heavily dependent on the other match ending in their favor.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, March 27, the I-League could have a new champion or a legacy club coming back on top.

Let’s hope Igor Stimac has the time to watch the matches. 

Former champs and other dark horses

The I-League has provided a few close finishes in the past. Here’s a quick look at how each championship was won.

  • 2007-08: The inaugural season saw Dempo pip Churchill on goal difference in the final day as both teams finished on 36 points.
  • 2008-09: Churchill Brothers win their final match convincingly, while Mohun Bagan lose theirs. The Goans wrap up the championship by three points.
  • 2009-10: Dempo wins convincingly as they finish the season 11 clear of Churchill Brothers.
  • 2010-11: Salgaocar beat East Bengal in their penultimate match. The Kolkata team had two matches in hand but picked up only one point. Salgaocar went five points clear on the final day to take the title.
  • 2011-12: Dempo play out a goalless draw against East Bengal to clinch the title in the penultimate round as they go six points clear.
  • 2012-13: Churchill Brothers withstands Pune FC’s late charge to take the title by three points in the final day.
  • 2013-14: Bengaluru FC takes the title on their debut season with one match to spare as they go 4 points clear of East Bengal.
  • 2014-15: Drama at the Kanteerava Stadium as Mohun Bagan scored late to draw level and snatch the title away from Bengaluru FC.
  • 2015-16: Bengaluru FC sealed the deal in the penultimate round to attain a five point lead. Second placed Mohun Bagan cut the deficit to two points by beating the champions.
  • 2016-17: Aizawl FC’s dream season was completed on the final day when they held on to a 1-1 draw to pip Mohun Bagan by a single point.
  • 2017-18: At the start of the final day Punjab FC were on 32 points followed by NEROCA (30), Mohun Bagan (30), and East Bengal (30). Punjab won their match, while their opponents drew. The I-League had a new champion.
  • 2018-19: Another last day drama as Chennai City hold on to their one point lead over East Bengal to win their first ever I-League title.
  • 2019-20: Covid-19 wrecked havoc with the schedules but there was no stopping Mohun Bagan from lifting the trophy.
Pretty stable, no foal play

In the other matches, Punjab FC beat Real Kashmir 1-0, courtesy a well-taken Chencho Gyeltshen goal.

Real Kashmir aka ‘Snow Leopards’ will close out their campaign against Mohammedan Sporting aka ‘Black Panthers’ in the big cat derby.

The Aizawl FC players decided to turn up in their match against Chennai City as the former champions ran out 3-1 winners over the former champions. Sudeva beat Indian Arrows 1-0 and will face Aizawl in the final match.

Relegated NEROCA will be more focused on the Manipur State League than the final match against Chennai City.

The Goal-Scoring Ratio

With the final round to play, the goal scoring chart is also going down to the wire as the top scorers of the I-League belong to the three teams battling it out for the title..

Luka Majcen’s penalty and Dennis Antwi’s brace have taken their tally to 10 goals each, while Bidyashagar Singh remains at the top with his 11 goals.

195 goals from 75 matches with an average of 2.6 goals per match is not bad, is it? The Indian players have been finding the back of the net more often and overall tally after round 15 looks like this:

Foreign players – 89
Indian players – 101
Own goals – 5

…and finally.

When the margins are so close, this post would have read differently had either of these two chances been converted.

Very cool @ILeagueOfficial, very cool.


  1. scruffyrube scruffyrube 23rd March 2021

    This was a great summary of the league’s final stages and all the permutations.

    But it was made 1000000% better by the number of horse puns.

  2. That Gurung Bloke That Gurung Bloke 27th March 2021

    We don’t horse around 😛

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