I-League 2023-24 Review

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The Hero I-League 2023-24 season has drawn to a close, marked not only by thrilling clashes and nail-biting encounters but also by unforeseen twists and turns. Mohammedan SC emerged victorious, clinching the title with 52 points and etching their name in the annals of history as champions of this prestigious tournament. Now, the Black Panthers have the opportunity to transition to the Indian Super League pending fulfillment of licensing criteria.

Sreendihi Deccan secured the runner-up position, finishing just 4 points behind the champions with a total of 48 points. Former champions Gokulam Kerala FC, Inter Kashi, and Real Kashmir claimed the third, fourth, and fifth positions in the table respectively, separated by a mere 1 point each.

Let’s delve deeper into the unfolding chapters of this season’s I-League campaign.

Maiden title for Mohammedans – THE I-LEAGUE CHAMPIONS

From the onset of the league, Mohammedan SC showcased a formidable intent and the fierce mentality befitting a true champion side, consistently asserting their presence and ultimately lifting the trophy. As a club older than FIFA itself, their ascent to the pinnacle of Indian football is a testament to their enduring legacy. Just four years ago, Mohammedan crawled their way back to the I-League after navigating through the trials of the second division. Now, their perseverance has borne fruit as they proudly knock on the doors of the Indian Super League.

Securing the title wasn’t a straightforward task, with four teams exerting pressure on Andrey Chernyshov’s squad. However, the Russian tactician remained composed, crafting a vibrant squad blending experience with youthful vigor. Their journey to victory saw them suffer only two defeats, triumphing in 15 matches and settling for draws in 7. Remarkably, they conceded the second-fewest goals in the league, with only 22 goals breached, trailing behind only Real Kashmir’s exceptional defensive record of 19 goals conceded.

I-League Special Article Mohammedan SC Champions

Eddie Hernandez, the talisman from Honduras, emerged as the top scorer for the black and white brigade, tallying an impressive 13 goals throughout the season. Another key contributor was Alexis Gomez, who notched 3 goals and provided 6 crucial assists, playing a pivotal role in the team’s attacking dynamics. Evgeniy Kozlov, who joined the squad in February, swiftly established himself as a game-changer with impactful performances that elevated the team’s gameplay.

Within the Indian contingent, David Lalhlansanga showcased his remarkable finishing abilities by scoring 5 goals and assisting 2 others, while Lalremsanga made significant contributions with a total of 9 goal involvements, comprising 5 goals and 4 assists. Padam Chettri’s exceptional goalkeeping skills stood out prominently, acting as a reliable custodian for the team’s defensive efforts.

In defense, Joseph Adjei and Zodingliana Ralte formed a formidable partnership, consistently maintaining a solid defensive line and ensuring stability for Mohammedan SC throughout the season.

Squander, rebound cycle – CONTENDERS

Mohammedan SC faced challenges not from just one team, but from four contenders, each vying to snatch the league title in any way possible. However, for all their rivals, a lack of persistence and vulnerability ultimately led to their downfall, allowing Mohammedan to maintain their grip on the I-League title.

Sreenidhi Deccan, who secured second place, faltered at some junctures during the league, finishing 4 points adrift from the league leaders and settling for the runners-up position. Despite this, they showcased formidable attacking prowess, becoming one of the teams with the second-highest goal tally in the tournament, notching an impressive 54 goals with contributions from 13 different goal scorers. David Castaneda emerged as a standout player, achieving double-digit goals for the third consecutive season, while William, Rilwan Hassan, and Faysal Shayesteh impressed in the foreign player department. Lalromawia and Rosenberg posed significant threats with their attacking mastery, supported by Ibrahim Sissoko, Brandon, and Mayakkannan who excelled in midfield. Jagdeep Singh demonstrated solidity in defense, proving to be a promising presence throughout the season.

I-League Special Article Sreenidhi Deccan and Gokulam Kerala FC

Gokulam Kerala, the Malabarians, experienced a turbulent journey throughout the campaign, lacking the consistency needed to secure a stable position in the league. However, they managed to clinch the third spot in the table with 42 points, boasting the highest goal tally in the league with contributions from 14 different goal scorers. The Spanish target man, Alex Sanchez, emerged as the standout player, finishing as the league’s top scorer with an impressive haul of 19 goals. Noufal P N distinguished himself with 5 goals and 8 assists, garnering attention as a promising talent coveted by top teams. Abhijith K, Nikola Stojanovic, and Komron Tursunov also made notable contributions to the team’s success.

Debutants Inter Kashi made a resounding impact with their exceptional heroism and fighting spirit, securing a commendable fourth-place finish with 41 points. Mario Barco, their Spanish forward, proved to be a standout player in the league with a remarkable total of 24 goal contributions. Edmund Lalrindika emerged as their Indian star, contributing to 12 goals alongside notable performances from Arindam, Gyamar Nikum, Lamela, Hartley, and Asif Khan. While their gameplay was attractive, there remains room for improvement in defensive stability for the seasons ahead.

I-League Special Article Inter Kashi and Real Kashmir

Under the leadership of Indian coach Ishfaq Ahmed, the team from Kashmir displayed valor and solidity, particularly in their defensive prowess, boasting an impressive record of 12 clean sheets and conceding the fewest goals in the entire league, with just 19 goals breached, both statistics being the best in the competition. Gnohere Krizo emerged as the top scorer for the team, notching 12 goals, while Jeremy Laldinpuia showcased his prowess in the attacking department.

Muheet Shabir, the custodian, led a formidable defensive lineup consisting of Muhammad Hammad, Wayne Vaz, Shaher Shaheen, and Carlos Lomba, who proved to be defensive stalwarts throughout the season, contributing significantly to the team’s solid defensive record and overall performance.

Nothing more, Nothing Less

In the mid-table standings, teams like Delhi FC and Churchill Brothers FC showcased moments of dominance in various areas of the field but ultimately fell short as a collective unit. Similarly, Shillong Lajong and Namdhari United struggled, primarily due to a lack of experience and defensive solidity compared to the teams above them.

For Delhi FC, Sergio Barboza emerged as a standout performer, dazzling with his attacking prowess and serving as a super-sub figure, tallying an impressive 14 goals in the league. Meanwhile, Louis Ogana and Martin Chaves excelled in the foreign player department for Churchill Brothers FC. Additionally, players like Lamgoulen Hangshing, Stendly Fernandes, and Lalremruata Ralte showcased their talent and contributed significantly to Churchill’s Indian contingent.

I-League Special Article Delhi and Churchill Brothers FC

Phrangki Buam showcased his impactful attacking skills, leading the charge with 9 goal contributions and establishing himself at the top of the chart for his team. Ronney Wilson emerged as a standout defender, complemented by the solid presence of Brazilian center-back Goncalves in the backline. In midfield, Renan Paulinho and Hardy Nongbri formed a formidable partnership, with Paulinho dictating play with style while Nongbri contributed with 6 goal involvements.

Namdhari United boasted an impressive lineup of Indian attackers, including Harmanpreet Singh, Akashdeep Singh, and Manvir Singh, who consistently stepped up when needed. Spanish midfielders Imanol Arana and Ivan Garrido shone brightly among the foreigners, adding quality and flair to the team’s midfield.

I-League Special Article Shillong Lajong and Namdhari FC

Not bad, Not good for Aizawl and Rajasthan

Despite not having their best season, both Aizawl FC and their counterpart shared the same number of points, each team tallying 25. However, controversy surrounded Aizawl FC as two of their games were cancelled, potentially altering the outcome.

Aizawl FC remains a team to watch for the emergence of young talents, showcasing incredible potential and promise for future seasons. Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia made history by breaking the all-time I-League record for top goal scoring in a single season by an Indian player, netting an impressive 15 goals while also providing 3 assists. Joe Zoherliana proved to be influential in the defensive line, contributing to the team’s solidity at the back.

The midfield emerged as the strongest department for Aizawl FC, with players like Lalthanmawia, Lalrinfela, Tharpuia, and S K Sahil producing top-notch performances throughout the season. Despite the challenges faced, Aizawl FC has a solid foundation to build upon for future campaigns.

I-League Special Article Aizawl and Rajasthan United

Rajasthan United struggled significantly in their defensive department, conceding a staggering 63 goals throughout the season, highlighting their vulnerability and lack of resilience.

However, amidst their defensive struggles, Ghanaian striker Richardson Kwaku Denzell stood out as a shining star for the team. Denzell showcased his prowess in front of goal, finishing second in the league’s scoring charts with an impressive tally of 16 goals and 2 assists. Lalchungnunga Chhangthe, on loan from Hyderabad FC, proved his worth with 10 goal contributions as a winger, adding valuable firepower to the team’s attack.

Additionally, players like Ragav Gupta and William Pauliankhum made notable contributions to the team’s efforts, despite the challenges faced in the defensive compartment. While Rajasthan United encountered difficulties throughout the season, the performances of individual talents like Denzell and Chhangthe offer hope for improvement and success in the future.

Relegation Zone

Unfortunately, both Manipuri teams endured a season filled with woes, ultimately leading to their relegation from the league. With only 4 wins between them and conceding over 60 goals collectively, their struggles were far from ordinary.

Neroca FC faced a particularly difficult season, grappling with challenges that extended to their squad depth, or lack thereof, at certain points during the league. Despite the team’s overall struggles, Ansumana Kromah emerged as a standout foreign player, offering some glimpses of quality amidst the turmoil. However, the real sensation for Neroca FC came in the form of Tangva Ragui, a 20-year-old midfielder who exhibited remarkable footballing excellence, dictating the team’s play from the center of the park.

Additionally, Lourembam David Singh made notable contributions in attack, finding the net on 4 occasions and showcasing his offensive prowess. Rohit Meitei stood out in the defensive area, offering stability amidst the team’s defensive challenges. Despite their relegation, these individual performances offer hope for Neroca FC’s future endeavors.

I-League Special Article Neroca  and TRAU

TRAU FC, a team that impressed with a fourth-place finish last season, faced a starkly disappointing campaign this time around, finding themselves at the bottom of the table. The lack of sufficient resources to contend with the competition in the I-League proved costly for them. However, amidst their struggles, Danish Aribam emerged as a standout performer, establishing himself not just as one of the best but as the best young player of the tournament, leading the team with 8 goal contributions. Soraisam Robinson Singh, recruited from FC Goa, also made a significant impact, making a name for himself in both the team and the league.

In conclusion, the I-League season proved to be tough and demanding for teams, with many underdog teams showcasing their true potential but struggling to maintain consistency. While one team emerged as a consistent performer to claim the title, others faltered at various points, costing them top positions in the table. Looking ahead, the competition is expected to be even tighter in the coming season, with plenty of potential waiting to be unleashed.


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Rejin T Jays
Rejin T Jayshttps://iftwc.com/author/rejintjays/
Kerala Blasters Supporter💛 and Indian Football Fan💙

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