The I-League is now officially up and running. Round 1 concluded with not many goals but it still satisfied anyone who had a hunger for proper domestic football after many months without it. Already we have a big defeat with Bengaluru FC inflicting a 3-0 thrashing against Shillong Lajong while sides like Mumbai and Mohun Bagan were also able to open their campaigns with three points, over DSK Shivajians and Churchill Brothers respectively. Points were shared meanwhile in Kolkata on Saturday and Chennai on Sunday as East Bengal had to come back from 1-0 down to draw 1-1 and no one could break the deadlock between I-League debutants Chennai City and Minerva Punjab.
We enter the second round with two matches on Friday the 13th. Aizawl will host Minerva Punjab at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium. The Mizo side will be looking to improve from their away draw at East Bengal last weekend in which they had the lead until the 89th minute. Minerva Punjab meanwhile will also be looking for their first victory of the season, as well as their first goal of the season, after being held goal-less against Chennai City. Surinder Singh’s men will hope for a better performance this time in their debutant season.
The day will then end with Mohun Bagan hosting Shillong Lajong. Sanjoy Sen’s men began their I-League campaign with a 1-0 victory over newly re-inducted Churchill Brothers while Lajong were grieving from a 3-0 away defeat to Bengaluru FC. Once again Mohun Bagan will enjoy the home advantage while Lajong remain on the road. However, despite hosting, Mohun Bagan might be left without their fans in the stands after their CM having a meeting in the area. Adding to Bagan’s woes include the loss of defender Eduardo, who also didn’t play in their first match, while youngster Subhashish Bose will also miss out through red card suspension. Sony Norde will also be missing for this match.
Saturday will also feature two matches with DSK Shivajians hosting East Bengal and Bengaluru FC hosting Chennai City. DSK Shivajians will be looking to bounce back after their defeat to Mumbai in last weekends Maha Derby. Dave Rogers will be hoping that home advantage will be able to change the fortunes of DSK but will probably find it tough against Trevor Morgan’s side who will be looking for 3 points after opening their campaign with a come from behind draw against Aizawl. East Bengal will be boosted with the signing of India international Robin Singh who returns to the club after three seasons away. He will travel with the 20-man squad that will travel to Pune.
The other match that evening will be between Bengaluru FC and Chennai City. Bengaluru FC could not have began their season any better last weekend. The Bangalore side came out better against Shillong Lajong with a 3-0 victory over the NorthEast side. Albert Roca’s men will be hoping home advantage works for them again as they welcome I-League direct-entrants Chennai City into “the fortress”. Chennai City meanwhile will be playing their first ever away fixture in the I-League after hosting a 0-0 draw against Minerva Punjab in the opening match of the season. Robin Charles Raja’s side will come into this one as heavy underdogs but they will be hoping luck can be on their side here against Bengaluru FC.
Finally, the round concludes on Sunday with Churchill Brothers hosting their first I-League match in two seasons against Mumbai. Churchill Brothers didn’t experience the best of returns to the big stage as they suffered an opening day defeat to Mohun Bagan in Kolkata. Alfred Fernandes’ side will now look to overturn that result but will have a job on their hands if they want to do it against Santosh Kashyap’s men. Mumbai opened their season with a 1-0 victory in the Maha derby against DSK Shivajians. Both sides here are pretty bare when it comes to foreigners, with neither side announcing any signings in that department, although things can change between Wednesday and Sunday, so depending on what happens between now and then we could be in for an enticing matchup in Vasco.
So there we have it. Round 2 commences then on Friday and soon Round 3 will be with us as early as Tuesday. Who knows how things will look by then but for now we can sit back and enjoy the action as the I-League is well and truly back.
Friday, 13 January 2017:
– Aizawl vs. Minerva Punjab (13:30; Rajiv Gandhi Stadium).
– Mohun Bagan vs. Shillong Lajong (19:00; Barasat Stadium).
Saturday, 14 January 2017:
– DSK Shivajians vs. East Bengal (19:00; Balewadi Stadium).
– Bengaluru FC vs. Chennai City (19:00; Sree Kanteerava Stadium).
Sunday, 15 January 2017:
– Churchill Brothers vs. Mumbai (16:30; Tilak Maidan Stadium).
(this article is written by Rohan Ahluwalia)