I-League 2015-16: Mohun Bagan lead the pack with 18 points, East Bengal one point behind

Mohun Bagan Sony Norde dribbles past defendersHero I-League 2015-16 has reached the halfway mark and the Kolkata powerhouses are leading the race at the moment. Defending champions Mohun Bagan are heading the table with 18 points and their arch-rivals Kingfisher East Bengal, who are just 1 point shy of the leaders, are breathing on their neck. Bengaluru FC, who haven’t plied their trade this game week because of their AFC Cup fixture against Lao Toyota FC, have dropped to 3rd after the first half of the Hero I-League 2015-16.

The game week started in the eastern part of the nation as Aizawl FC hosted Mumbai FC at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium. Jahar Das, the interim manager of Aizawl FC, opted to start without regular skipper David Lalrinmuana and deployed Alfred Jaryan at the up front. Albeit they gave the Mumbai FC defenders a torrid time in the first half, the opening goal eluded them. Jahar Das didn’t hesitate to introduce Joel Sunday after the lemon break and finally, the debutant smacked their first goal on the hour-mark. Lalmuankima, the architect of the first goal, doubled the lead within 2 minutes and took the match away from the Yellow outfit, who were handed their second loss on the trot away from home.

Mohun Bagan came out to take on the Flaming Oranje at the Barasat Stadium, the fixture which always proved to be a high-scoring affair. Sanjoy Sen was absent in the dugout owing to his illness, but the Mariners started on a high note right from the kick-off. The referee flashed the yellow twice in the first half and Pronay Halder and Luciano Sabrosa were on the receiving end. Mohun Bagan lacked the penetration in the box and finally Shankarlal Chakraborty introduced Balwant Singh withdrawing Cornell Glen, who had another lacklustre show in the Hero I-League.

With the introduction of Singh, Mohun Bagan attack started to look more promising and the Flaming Oranje defenders had to play out of their skin to contain them. In the 74th minute, Katsumi Yusa broke the deadlock from a Sony Norde’s pass. Mateus Costa Subhashis Bose but they could not find the equaliser till the final whistle. With the win, Mohun Bagan went three points clear at the top of the Hero I-League table, but the lead cut to 1 point when Kingfisher East Bengal amassed all 3 points against Salgaocar FC next day.

Kingfisher East Bengal were all charged up against Salgaocar FC and they had to clinch a win to stay in the foray. After a brief spell of midfield battles, Mehtab Hossain unleashed a lethal pass from 30 yards and it was converted by Md. Rafique from inside the box on 38 minutes. Karanjit Singh missed the ball completely and the hommies were up by 1 goal at the end of the first half. After the breather, the Greens showed more purpose and they almost found the equaliser just 3 minutes into the half. Five minutes after the hour-mark, Darryl Duffy leaped high and headed a long ball which eventually landed at the back of the net.

The equaliser from the Scot boosted more life into the match and both outfits came out of their shell to find the winner. In the 83rd minute, from a long corner by Sanju Pradhan, Bello Rasaq powered a deadly header to hit the roof of the net. The Nigerian defender was adjudged the Hero of the Match for his swashbuckling show and his header took the Red & Golds to the second spot in the Hero I-League. They finished the first half of the season with 17 points from the 8 matches and they’ll travel to Goa after a week to take on the Greens in the reverse fixture. Having collected just 1 point less than the leaders Mohun Bagan, they are very much alive in the title hunt.

Shillong Lajong landed in Pune, their last stop in their prolonged away trip in the ongoing Hero I-League before they come back to Shillong for consecutive two home games. The Reds flummoxed the home team by opening the goalmouth within the 3rd minute as the Brazilian attacker Uilliams Bomfin Silva’s right-footed shot went past the Spiderman.

DSK Shivajians slowly crept into the game and showed real intention to find the equaliser, only to have being thwarted by the agile Lajong defenders time and again. In the 24th minute, Derrick Periera reshuffled the defence line with the introduction of Rohan Adnaik who replaced Sajid Dhot. Lajong put more vigour in their attack towards the end of the first half but nothing came out of it. DSK Shivajians started a physical game after the breather and the referee didn’t hesitate to caution Haroon Amiri and Baljit Sahni in a gap of just 5 minutes.

Lajong defenders contained the heavy attacks from the DSK Shivajians attackers but finally, Dipanda Dica headed it home from a long cross by Sena Ralte from the left wing. After the home team cancelled the Lajong’s lead on the hour-mark, the pace mellowed down. Thangboi Singto introduced the fresh pair of legs of Bipin Singh after 75 minutes to add some vitality in the attacking zone and he almost got his name on the scoresheet in the 81st minute, only to have ruled offside by the assistant referee. They shared the spoils as there was no late drama in Pune till the final whistle.

After the conclusion of the game week 9, Mohun Bagan lead the race with 18 points. The Mariners have registered 5 wins so far in the Hero I-League and have drawn against arch-rivals Kingfisher East Bengal, Shillong Lajong FC at the Barasat Stadium and Mumbai FC at the Cooperage ground respectively. Kingfisher East Bengal have also won 5 matches so far but their only loss to Bengaluru FC at the Barasat stadium put them a point below than the leaders. Bengaluru FC are third at the moment with 15 points and they’ll resume their Hero I-League campaign against new entrants Aizawl FC next week.

After the change in managerial position, Salgaocar FC have amassed 5 points from 3 matches but they had to go down against the Red & Golds in the 9th game week and still they are in the danger zone. They have conceded 15 goals so far in the ongoing Hero I-League, most by any team so far. However, they have netted 10 goals also which includes 8 goals from Darryl Duffy, who is leading the chart now with 8 goals. DSK Shivajians are still at the bottom of the table with mere 5 points.