Category: I-League

I-League 2018/19: Third Place Battle Set to Play Out in the Hills of the North-East

New Delhi, March 8, 2018: It is D-Day for the 12th Hero I-League, but come Saturday, March 9, 2019, the first battle to be played will be for the third spot and in the hills of the North-East, arguably India’s football capital today. Two games beginning simultaneously at two venues at 2 PM IST – one at Imphal’s Khuman Lampak stadium between local side Neroca FC and debutants Real Kashmir FC, and the other at Aizawl’s Rajiv Gandhi Stadium between hosts Aizawl FC and Goan giants Churchill Brothers FC might see the league’s third place decided at the end of 90 minutes.

The larger battle across the two games is really between Churchill Brothers and Real Kashmir. The Goans are placed third currently with 34 points and will be ending their league campaign on Saturday.

Kashmir are a point behind in fourth, but with a re-scheduled game in hand against Minerva, will know that if they win on Saturday and Churchill do not, the third spot is secure and that would still qualify as a stupendous effort on debut.

It will certainly not be easy for the David Robertson-coached ‘Snow Leopards’, given Neroca are a proud team and are very strong at home, where they have lost only once in this campaign to Quess East Bengal, that too in their very first game over four months back.

Even in the first round clash at the TRC ground in Srinagar, Neroca ran out 2-0 winners over Kashmir, courtesy a brace by their premiere Nigerian striker Felix Chidi, who has found the back of the net seven times this season.

Kashmir have not won in three games, have been criss-crossing the country over the past 10 days and given the strength of their opponents, are in for a lot of hard work to cement third-spot on Saturday.

Churchill, on the other hand, will feel more confident if they can jog their memories back to the first-leg fixture between the two sides at the Tilak Maidan in Goa, where a rampant home side had overwhelmed Aizawl 4-1.

Under new coach Stanley Rozario however, Aizawl are a transformed and inspired side. They have picked up three wins in the last four matches and with the added incentive of finishing a spot above their current eighth position following a good result on Saturday, will be dangerous at home.

Churchill will bank heavily on the league’s joint top scorer Willis Plaza. The Trinidadian has had a phenomenal season and his 20 goals have been a masterclass in clinical finishing after a tough season last time around.

Both coaches Rozario and Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu did not ooze confidence at the pre-match presser. While Gigiu was concerned about his players being tired after a gruelling season, the Aizawl coach had concerns on injuries and suspension. Both, however, promised a strong showing.

What will also please the Aizawl coach in particular, is the fact that in their previous two back-to-back wins, the team has scored seven goals and finally looked like gelling together as a team. Certainly, Saturday promises an exciting day of Hero I-League football.

I-League 2018/19: Lajong fight for pride against Mohun Bagan

Shillong 7th March: Shillong Lajong will host Mohun Bagan in their last match of the I-League 2018/19 season on 8th March, Friday at the JN Stadium Shillong at 5PM.

The tickets for the match will be available at The SSA Counter in Polo Ground and The Mobile Centre Police Bazar.

Shillong Lajong was not successful in their last encounter as they went down by a 4-1 margin against Aizawl FC. Academy lad, Donbok Lyndoh scored the solitary goal for Lajong and registered his name on the scoresheet for the first time in what was his 2nd I-League appearance coming out from the bench.

Mohun Bagan also lost their last match that was played at home against Indian Arrows by a 1-3 margin. Azharuddin Mallick found the back of the net for the Mariners.

In the pre-match press conference, Shillong Lajong Head Coach Alison Kharsyntiew spoke about the team’s performance this season and the upcoming clash versus Mohun Bagan on Friday. “At the start of the season, the boys knew that it was going to be a huge challenge for them and as a Coach, it was my duty to guide, nurture and help them in their overall development. They have gained immense exposure this season and I believe these boys are now ready for bigger challenges ahead of them.”

“On Friday we are going to perform well and we will score like we did in many of the matches. We will definitely bounce back stronger.”

Mohun Bagan Head Coach Khalid Jamil also spoke about his team and said, “I am satisfied with the performance of my team. I made everybody play and everybody got the chance.”

“On Friday, it’s our last match of the season so I will let the new players play and give them a chance. The preparation has been fine for the match against Lajong and at the same time this preparation is also for the Super Cup.”

“Lajong boys are very good and I have seen them play but they were unlucky due to lack of experience. We will not take the game lightly on Friday and will give our best.”

Real Kashmir match against Minerva Punjab rescheduled by AIFF

NEW DELHI: The recommendation of the AIFF League Committee related to the decision of cancellation of the match scheduled between Real Kashmir FC and Minerva Punjab FC on February 18, 2019 in Srinagar was referred to the AIFF Emergency Committee.

Considering the nature of the matter, and in the interest of time it was decided that it would not be possible to convene an Emergency Committee meeting at short notice, and therefore, it would be appropriate that the decision be passed by way of circulation.

The Committee has deliberated on the recommendation of the League Committee, and the provisions of the Hero I-League Regulations 2018-19, and also taken note of the situation prevailing in Kashmir since February 14, 2019.

The Committee firmly believes that football is apolitical and must continue to be a humane expression of conciliation and solidarity with everybody affected by terrorism. The best way to do that is by playing, albeit in a safe and secure environment, allowing the players to express themselves best.

With the current situation in Kashmir not conducive to conduct a match, and keeping in mind the current extraordinary situation as well as the desire of teams to play football on the field, the match stands rescheduled to be held after March 6, 2019, at a time and location feasible for AIFF, and the participating teams.

I-League 2018/19: Plaza’s brace keeps title-race alive further

Goa, 1st March 2019: Churchill Brothers FC Goa dampened Chennai City’s plan of securing their maiden Hero I-League title with a dramatic 3-2 win over the table toppers at the Tilak Maidan in Goa today (March 1, 2019).

Current Hero I-League table toppers Chennai City drew the first blood in the 29th minute through Sandro R before Willis Plaza (38′) restored parity for the hosts. The Red Machines took the lead through Christ Remi (50′) once again but it was Pedro Manzi (69′) who did no mistake to convert from the penalty spot. Their efforts went to waste as Hero of the Match Willis Plaza completed his brace (71′) to help his team secure a victory tonight.

With this win, Churchill Brothers FC Goa elevate to third with 34 points while Chennai City FC continue to lead the table with 40 points, 4 points ahead of second-placed Quess East Bengal.

Meanwhile, Quess East Bengal will need to win their next match against Minerva Punjab FC on 3rd March to stay afloat in the title hunt. Anything except a win for the Red and Golds would seal the title for the Southerners, courtesy their superior head-to-head record.

Chennai City FC, with the urgency to clinch their maiden Hero I-League title with a win against hosts Churchill Brothers FC Goa, started on a safe note today. Unlike their normal attacking style, it seemed like they were trying to soak in the pressure as Churchill Brothers went pressing hard right from the start.

Willis Plaza, Khalid Aucho and Nicholas Fernandes were combining well to breach the Chennai City FC defence time and again but somehow couldn’t find a way to finish their attempts. A foul by Wayne Vaz on Nestor Gordillo earned the visitors a free kick at the top of the box.

Spanish midfielder Sandro’s free-kick, after a deflection from Plaza, gave Chennai the lead in the 29th minute. Churchill Brothers FC Goa, thereafter, went on attacking in regular intervals through the combination of Nicholas Fernandes and Khalid Aucho to feed Plaza time and again.

Their efforts soon yielded a result when Willis Plaza successfully tapped it in from an inch-perfect cross by Nicholas Fernandes in the 38th minute.

The first half ended with the scoreboard locked at 1-1.

The second half began with Chennai pressing hard for the lead but it was again Churchill Brothers FC Goa who turned around the game on its head. Following a clever interception, Churchill took the lead soon through Christ Remi taking the scoreline to 2-1 to the hosts’ favour.

Churchill Brothers FC Goa thereafter never really stopped trying hard to score their insurance goal but timely interceptions from Chennai City FC ensured the visitors aren’t faced with more difficult situations. Chennai City FC, who played a lot around the midfield today, tried a lot from the counter-attacks.

Owing to a handball by Wayne Vaz inside the penalty box, Chennai City FC were awarded a penalty. Pedro Manzi made no mistake to restore the parity for Chennai City FC in the 69th minute. Churchill cut their joy short having scored the eventual winner within two minutes.

Thereafter, the game was mostly about Churchill Brothers FC Goa attacking in bits but missing targets while Chennai City FC failed to breach the sturdy Churchill defence till the end to confirm a win for the Goan outfit in their final home game.

I-League 2018/19: Chennai look to secure title against Churchill

Goa, February 28, 2018: The race for the Hero I-League title could be all but over tomorrow when hosts Churchill Brothers FC Goa take on Chennai City FC in the potential title-decider at the Tilak Maidan in Goa.

A win for the Coimbatore-based club is enough to win their maiden national league title in just four years of existence and besides Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas and a host of quality Spanish players, they would have to thank striker Pedro Manzi the most, one would want to believe.

The Spanish sniper has been in phenomenal goal-scoring form in the league campaign overcoming a minor injury scare in between to score 19 times including four hat-tricks.

In fact, it will be billed as a game between the two most prolific strikers of the league, Manzi’s Trinidadian counterpart in the Churchill ranks, Willis Plaza, having netted 18 times for the ‘Red Machines’ this season. The two will be in a dogfight to finish with the maximum goals under their belt with just a game more to play.

Churchill are placed fourth at the moment, with 31 points and a win on Friday could catapult them to the second position.

On the other hand, the visiting team, Chennai City FC, who have recently tied up with FC Basel 1893, are top of the table with 40 points from 18 games so far, with East Bengal four points behind in the second spot.

Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu said on match day eve, “I will be very happy if we finish on the podium. There are quite a few players like Rowilson Rodrigues, keeper Vigneshwaran Baskaran, Nallappan Mohanraj, Richard Costa who will not be playing tomorrow’s match. Hussain Eldor might join tomorrow’s match. We are happy with our performance this season, compared to the last season.”

Akbar Nawas seemed to more raring to go expressing in the pre-match media conference, “The most important thing for me and the team is to win tomorrow’s match. We want to win every match and become the champion. We want to finish the league on a good note.”

“The secret of our success is training. Churchill is one of those teams which is hard to play. Some of the teams are overly physical but Churchill is a good team with a good coach and mix of players. I think we have good Spanish and Indian players who get along well.”

The simplest equation for Chennai City is to pick up one win from their remaining two matches. That will take them up to 43 points, more than anything QEB can possibly reach.

Chennai, who have been unbeaten at home all season, can wrap up the title with a victory either against Churchill Brothers or Minerva Punjab FC in Coimbatore in the last game.

The Goans will take heart from the fact that arguably the best team of the season have not beaten them so far, their first leg encounter ending in a 2-2 stalemate, where Churchill were done by an own-goal.

On paper, at this stage, Chennai go in as clear favourites but funnier things have happened in football, especially when the title is in sight.

I-League 2018/19: Arrows clinch dramatic win in Mehtab’s farewell

New Delhi, February 28, 2019: Indian Arrows trumped former champions and hosts Mohun Bagan 3-1 in a 12th Hero I-League clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) in Kolkata to conclude their second season in the top-flight league with six wins, in what has been a stellar display of football by All India Football Federation (AIFF)’s Developmental side.

During the course of the campaign, Indian Arrows have beaten defending champions Minverva Punjab FC, Shillong Lajong (twice), Gokulam Kerala, and former champions Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan.

Both coaches Khalid Jamil and Floyd Pinto went for wholesale changes at the start of the game, making seven and six respectively, in a fixture essentially between two sides assured of a mid-table finish.

The first half did not see the game reach great heights but the young Arrows certainly looked the more enterprising, creating several openings to score.

The home team, though, took the lead in the 17th minute through Azharuddin Mallick after a move initiated by Sony Norde, saw the Hiatian winger play off Henry Kisseka, run in and cross from the left of the Arrows box. Kisseka missed the first bit, but the talented Under-22 youngster was at hand to slot it home.

The Arrows hit back in the 28th minute when an Anwar Ali free-kick was fumbled by keeper Ricardo Cardozo, before Abhijeet Sarkar struck off the rebound.

As the players came on for the second half, Mohun Bagan coach Khaleed Jamil brought on Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka, expressing clear intentions. He also replaced goal-scorer Mallick with Egyptian playmaker Omar Elhussieny.

However, Floyd Pinto’s team was not to be bogged down and after initial Bagan forays, it was the Indian Arrows who went ahead in the 74th minute after a brilliantly-crafted move, executed with pace.

Substitute Neenthoi, who had come in barely two minutes earlier, played the pass from midfield finding Boris in space on the right. The right-wing back made a purposeful run into the box, looked up and found an onrushing Rahul KP with the cutback. Rahul made no mistake with a calm and composed finish.

The young guns secured the three points in injury time. In a seemingly harmless defensive position, keeper Cordozo, who had a forgetful day, came out of his area to clear the ball with his head straight onto a waiting Rohit Danu, who slotted from distance into an empty goal.

Both Bagan and Arrows remain in sixth and seventh positions, respectively, with the gap between the two now narrowed to five points.

I-League 2018/19: Aizawl came from behind to run a riot over Gokulam

Kozhikode, 28th February 2019: The 99th game of the ongoing Hero I-League season today saw Aizawl FC come from behind and walk away winning against hosts Gokulam Kerala FC 1-3. Gokulam Kerala FC drew first blood through Marcus Joseph in the 9th minute before Aizawl restored parity in the 83rd minute through Paul Ramfanzauva who was also adjudged the eventual Hero of the Match.

The Highlanders struck in quick succession twice through Mawpuia in the 88th minute and Kromah in the added time (90’ + 6’) to seal the game in their favour.

In the must-win game for both the teams, the home side took to the attacks right from the start. Gokulam Kerala FC pressed hard with Marcus Joseph and Suhair VP in combination and looked threatening from the start.

Gokulam Kerala FC who were finding their way into the Aizawl FC box in regular intervals couldn’t find a way to convert the chances that came their way. However, Aizawl FC did try hard to create a few chances through Kromah and Dodoz but couldn’t really breach past the Gokulam defence line.

Gokulam’s attacking game soon yielded a result when a scintillating free-kick from Marcus Joseph in the 9th minute found its way straight into the goal giving the home team a much-deserved lead early into the game.

Aizawl came back again in their second attempt to score but some amazing goalkeeping from Gokulam Kerala FC’s Shibin Raj ensured that the visitors do not find their way for an equalizer. The first half came to an end with Gokulam Kerala FC leading 1-0 against Aizawl FC.

The second half began with Gokulam Kerala FC again leading the proceedings. Their attempts to consolidate their lead couldn’t actualize thanks to an alert Aizawl Defence. Aizawl FC who were trying hard for an equaliser were unlucky on two occasions when they hit the crossbar.

Aizawl’s efforts finally paid off when a blunder by Shibin Raj was capitalized by Lalkhawpuimawia who deflected the ball to Paul Ramfanzauva who made no mistake in finding the back of the net in the 83rdminute.

The Reds suddenly changed gears after that and took the lead in the 88thminute when a through ball from Kromah was collected by Mawpuia who made no mistake thereafter scoring the second goal for Aizawl FC.

Goakulam who were rattled by now tried coming back to the attack aiming to score another but an alert defence line from Aizawl ensured that the hosts do not find their way to the back of the net. Kromah nailed the final one in Gokulam’s coffin in the final moments of the added time to ensure they leave Kozhikode with all three points.

I-League 2018/19: East Bengal bury Real Kashmir’s title hopes

New Delhi, February 28, 2019: East Bengal defeated debutantes Real Kashmir 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, on Thursday, as they kept their hopes of winning their maiden Hero I-League title alive.

Enrique Esqueda was adjudged the Hero of the Match, after he put the Red and Golds ahead early in the first half, before setting up his Spanish teammate Jamie Santos Colado for the second, as the Kolkata Giants ran away with a win.

This result takes East Bengal to 36 points from 18 games, just four behind league leaders Chennai City FC, who have played the same number of matches. As it currently stands, East Bengal need to win their remaining two matches and hope that Chennai do not pick up more than a point from their last two games.

For Chennai, however, the equation is simple. A point each from their last two games would see them lift the title at the end of the season by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the side from Kolkata.

The Red and Golds got off to a swift start, keeping large bouts of possession in the opening exchanges. Their efforts paid dividends in the 20th minute itself, when Danmawia curled in a cross at the Kashmir far post from a Lalram Chullova through ball, for Mexican forward Enrique Esqueda to nod home.

Real Kashmir could not find their footing in the game at this stage and resorted to route-one football hoping that their Scottish forward Mason Robertson would hold up the ball and distribute it to the rest.

However, they soon received a massive blow to their endeavours, when Kofi Tetteh was sent off for dissent after he was already shown a yellow card for a foul on East Bengal defender Johnny Acosta.

That gave East Bengal the momentum for the rest of the half, and they managed to double their lead minutes before the referee blew his whistle for the half-time breather.

East Bengal’s Spanish play-maker Jamie Santos Colado played Esqueda through inside the Kashmir area before the latter crossed it back to the Spaniard, who volleyed it home with great aplomb.

Despite being down to 10 men, Kashmir came out with a lot of initiative in the second half. However, it was East Bengal, who had the clearer chance on the hour mark, when Danmawia made a decoy run off a Colado ball, to find himself one-on-one with Real Kashmir keeper Bilal Khan. However, the Danmawia’s shot was parried away by the custodian.

Minutes later, the Snow Leopards got the perfect chance to get back in the game when East Bengal goalkeeper Rakshit Daggar brought Bazzie Armand down inside his own area. The referee had no choice but to point to the spot, and Aaron Katebe made no mistake as he slotted it home from the spot.

Real Kashmir gaffer David Robertson brought on striker Gnohere Krizo in the last 10 minutes, hoping to draw level with a two-pronged attack. However, East Bengal managed to hold on to their slender lead, bringing the Snow Leopards’ Hero I-League title hopes to an end.

I-League 2018/19: Indian arrows focused to wrap up the season on a high

Kolkata, February 27, 2019: Indian Arrows will fancy their chances of grabbing another win when the AIFF developmental side faced Mohun Bagan on Thursday (February 28, 2019) at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) in Kolkata with a scheduled 5 PM IST kick-off.

Mohun Bagan currently sit in the sixth spot with 26 points from 18 matches while Floyd Pinto-coached Indian Arrows are a spot behind on seventh with 18 points from 19 matches.

Indian Arrows coach Floyd Pinto said in the pre-match press conference, “Definitely the campaign has been more successful than last season, we are not concerned about the relegation though we are fighting for it. The boys are only getting better with time.”

“Mohun Bagan will be playing at their home ground which will be an advantage for them, but we are hoping to get the three points tomorrow. The attitude of the boys is much more positive. We are looking forward to the Hero Super Cup and I am confident with our abilities for tomorrow’s match.”

Mohun Bagan will start favourites though. However, their record of one defeat, one draw and one win in their last three games will be worrisome for their form, while Indian Arrows have lost two and drawn one going into Thursday’s game.

Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka’s double strike had settled the issue in the first-leg clash between the two sides. Khalid Jamil, looking for nothing less than a win said, “We are prepared for tomorrow’s match. We have to fight as we fought before and will be playing with a good team and the opponents should not be taken lightly. They are young and fight for every ball. This is our last home match of this season and we should be at our best.”

On the other hand, the Arrows have exhibited no fear of losing and will look to finish on a high. Coach Floyd Pinto could be proud of his work for the season and that of his boys and a win in the last game against Bagan will be the proverbial icing on the cake.

I-League 2018/19: Real Kashmir, East Bengal look to keep title hopes alive in 6-pointer at Delhi

New Delhi, February 27, 2019: Debutantes Real Kashmir FC, take on East Bengal in the ongoing 12th edition of the Hero I-League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, on Thursday, February 28, 2019, in what is a crucial must-win clash for both the teams, if they want to keep their title hopes alive.

Although both the teams have recently fallen behind leaders Chennai City FC in the title race, all options are still open to both teams if they win all their last three games, and if Chennai drop points.

The match, which will be the first for this edition of the country’s top flight football league to be played in the National Capital, will kick off at 2 pm IST.

The decision to host the game in Delhi was taken at the AIFF League Committee Meeting at Football House in Delhi on Monday, February 25, after Real Kashmir informed in writing that they wanted to play their tie against East Bengal on February 28 at a neutral venue.

Both teams are coming off a draw in their respective previous games and need to up their game significantly, given the important nature of the clash.

The ‘home team’ Real Kashmir now have 33 points from 17 games and maintained their unbeaten record on the road as they stole a crucial point against Indian Arrows following the 2-2 draw at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar three days back.

Visitors East Bengal are placed second from the same number of games and with the same number of points as Real Kashmir (33) but are ahead on goal difference.

David Robertson, the Real Kashmir coach, has been very effective and has strategically used his players, seeking creative solutions. Striker Krizo and the likes of Kofi Tetteh and Mason Robertson have proved effective. Robertson, who started off in deep defense, has shown a keen eye for goal and scored four goals so far.

With a different ambiance in Delhi, Kashmir might be able to affect the confidence of East Bengal players, compounded with the fact that they are one of the best defensive sides in the tournament.

Real Kashmir coach, David Robertson said, ” We are in a good momentum, getting the results, playing well. Both the teams want to play and win. Fantastic journey, unbeaten away from home, we are happy. No better way to keep the benchmark by playing against East Bengal, particularly at JLN Stadium.”

In the process, the two sides go back to where it all began for them in this season’s league campaign. In the first game between the two, both teams played out a draw.

On the other hand, the ‘visiting’ side under Spanish coach Alejandro Garcia has played some good percentage, professional football, with each player executing his given role to the best of his ability. The coach has displayed sound tactical knowledge and seems to be getting the best out of his squad of players.

East Bengal head coach Alejandro said, “When you play again in a short span of time less than 72 hours, it is not enough to get high quality from our players, but we are fully motivated and almost recovered from the last match and ready to play tomorrow.”

East Bengal have slipped in the league title race of late, following back-to-back stalemates at home, and would also miss the league’s most prolific Indian striker Jobby Justin for Thursday’s game.

Enrique Esqueda, the Mexican striker, is in good form, however, and East Bengal will depend a lot on him on Thursday.

The match is as good as a semi-final clash as it could decide whether East Bengal will ensure title contention or Real Kashmir would once again look to topple Chennai City FC on the points table.