Let’s have a quick recap of all the actions in the I-League games from 22nd January (Sunday) till 28th January (Saturday). Have a go through it to know everything that occurred in the fixtures.
RoundGlass Punjab FC thrashed Mohammedan SC
Led by a brilliant Luka Majcen, RoundGlass Punjab FC banished the memories of their previous game to emphatically beat Mohammedan Sporting Club 4-0 at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan on Sunday, January 22. In the process, they also became the first side to win a game in Kolkata against the hosts.
The Slovenian Luka Majcen is a physical presence in the box and among the best strikers in the league, who can often create something out of nothing. For Punjab’s opening two goals he did precisely that. The first came off an innocuous-looking attack, Chencho Gyeltshen playing Brandon Vanlalremdika on the left wing into space. Brandon cut back and lifted a hopeful cross into the box towards the far post, with Majcen waiting. Rather than taking a header on goal, Majcen cushioned it back, into the path of an onrushing Juan Mera, who swept in a first-time volley to spark the celebrations.
If the first of Punjab’s goals was a team effort, the second was pure individual genius, Majcen picking up the ball on the left of the box, cutting it to his right foot before curling it into the far corner and over a diving Sankar Roy. Punjab went into the break leading by two. Kibu Vicuna’s halftime changes ushered in some urgency in the home side’s play but Punjab was ruthless and clinical, punishing them for every misstep, and with ease. The third came after some pinball in the six-yard box from a Punjab free kick. The loose ball fell to Majcen two yards from the goal. He graciously accepted the gift.
With 15 minutes to go and Mohammedan looking lost, Punjab scored a fourth to add the gloss to a brilliant performance. Mera doubled up on his own tally for the game, running through a porous Mohammedan defence before letting fly from 20 yards. His teammates fell upon him in glee as it hit the net. Somehow, in the last ten minutes, Majcen found more ways to demonstrate his effect on this game. This time the Slovenian was at the other end of the pitch, in front of his own goal, heading a Murzaev shot from the goal line on to the crossbar. He preserved the clean sheet as Punjab rose to the top of the table.
Kenkre FC gets a surprising win over Sreenidi Deccan FC
Kenkre FC’s wait for their first points of the new year came to an end with a stunning 2-1 victory over second-place Sreenidi Deccan FC at the Cooperage Stadium in Mumbai on Monday. Mumbai Kenkre, down in 11th place and four points away from safety, started the brighter of the two sides, but with the league’s top spot on the line, the visitors came out all guns blazing in the second half. But the Mumbai Kenkre defence, who had leaked six goals in the last two games, looked to have learned from their past mistakes and held their own against the fast-paced Sreenidi offense.
Coach Akhil Kothari did see his side make rare forays inside the opposition penalty area and got their reward on one such occasion. Sreenidi’s otherwise reliable center-back Awal Mohammed clumsily handled the ball, giving Mumbai Kenkre a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 75th minute. 22-year-old Aman Gaikwad stepped up and netted his third goal of the season. However, substitutes Ramhlunchhunga and Louis Ogana combined to bring the Deccan Warriors back into the game. The Indian sent a looping cross at the far post for the Nigerian, who found the equalizer with a thumping volley.
As Sreenidi Deccan pumped numbers forward in search of a late winner, the hosts exploited their gaps behind, winning a free-kick in a crucial position in the dying stages of the match. Lalhmangaihsanga’s tricky delivery caught the visitors’ defence asleep as they failed to clear their lines, allowing the ball to fall for Ahmed Faiz Khan, who had sneaked into the six-yard box. The defender scored with a clever header across the goal to spark jubilant celebrations from his teammates.
Churchill Brothers and Real Kashmir FC played out a goalless draw
After a week filled with incredible goals, the dust settled down and a goalless draw arrived. For Churchill, this was confirmation that one swallow does not make a summer. Their five-goal tutoring of Rajasthan United in Fernando Varela’s first game in charge seemed like the charge of a new dawn, but the hard reality has hit them hard, and at home no less. Mehrajuddin Wadoo’s men can at least take heart from the fact that coming off a 2-0 defeat to Gokulam Kerala they managed to salvage a point here.
It will be difficult for Churchill’s coach to digest the fact that the team which pumped in five goals past Rajasthan United in an away fixture just last week, could not score even once against Real Kashmir—notoriously terrible travellers this season. Churchill’s first attempts arrived in the 21st minute as they fashioned not one, but two chances in the space of a few seconds. Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Yaghr unleashed a menacing pile-driver from a way out and Real Kashmir goalie Subhashis Roy Chowdhury flung himself to his left, managing to keep it out with some help. Anil Gaonkar pounced on the loose ball and played in Alocious. Alocious’ cross fell to Emmanuel at the far post, but the Ghanaian shot high from a few yards away.
Churchill’s inability to score was in part due to Abdoulaye Sane’s forgettable day on the pitch. Unmarked in front of the goal in the 30th minute, Sane headed Alocius’s perfect lob in the wrong direction. He got another chance 12 minutes into the second half, from the cut back by Emmanuel, but sent the left-footed way over the bar. Valera replaced Sane with Uruguayan Martin Chaves late on but even that did not bear fruit.
Churchill got a lucky break in the 80th minute to settle the issue. Midfielder Kingslee Fernandes, who had a fine match, shot hard from outside the box and Roy Chowdhury could only watch as the ball ricocheted off his chest and into the path of Kapil Hoble. Before Hoble could tap it in though, Richard Agyemang slid in brilliantly to clear the danger. The draw means Real Kashmir are fourth on the table with 19 points from 13 matches. Churchill are seventh, two points behind.
Kisekka’s goal from the penalty spot gives Aizawl a win over Mohammedan SC
Henry Kisekka scored his sixth goal of the 2022-23 Hero I-League season as Aizawl FC rode their luck to beat Mohammedan Sporting at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium. After an indifferent first half between two teams that played a thriller in the first leg, the match gained momentum after the breather.
The visitors, who had avoided defeat in Kolkata in the last minute, were unlucky not to go 1-0 up in the 56th minute. Midfielder Kean Lewis had a brilliant match, but on that occasion, his powerful right-footer hit the post. Luck was clearly not on Mohammedan Sporting’s side today. The same misfortune befell Mohammedan Sporting’s Serbian midfielder Nikola Stojanovic in the 90th minute when his scorching left-footer hit the crossbar and went out, denying Kibu Vicuna’s team the equalizer.
Kisekka scored the all-important goal long before that, capitalizing on a rare mistake by an otherwise solid Mohammedan Sporting defense. Their leader Ousmane Ndiaye had the measure of Kisekka for most of the match but in the 66th minute, his tackle inside the box was deemed illegal by referee Joyshing Thumli. Kisekka scored the penalty with clinical precision. Hero of the Match R Lalthanmawia owned the left wing right through the match and found Argentine midfielder Matias Veron in the middle with a proper chance to make it 2-0, but the latter could not keep his left-footer down.
The last 15 minutes, like the first encounter between these two teams, belonged to Mohammedan Sporting. Vicuna’s attacking replacements – Marcus Joseph and Nikola combined well but just could not find the goal. It will certainly bear thinking for Vicuna who started with Abiola Dauda as the lone forward. The Nigerian offered very little. This victory takes Caetano Pinho’s men up to fourth on the table with 20 points from 14 matches, while Mohammedan Sporting are ninth with 16 points from 14.
Leaders RoundGlass Punjab cruise to another dominant win
RoundGlass Punjab increased their lead at the top to four points after registering a 2-0 win against Real Kashmir at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula on Friday. Juan Mera, the Spaniard in red-hot form, curled a majestic free kick in the first half to score his fifth goal in three games, while Brandon Vanlalremdika added the second just past the hour mark to complete another comprehensive victory for RoundGlass Punjab in Panchkula. Staikos Vergetis’ side remains unbeaten at home with seven wins and a draw.
The difference between the two sides was visible from the get-go. RoundGlass Punjab looked like a well-oiled machine, while Real Kashmir lacked any rhythm and confidence. Poor link-up play and lack of defensive awareness have been a constant problem for the Snow Leopards over the past few weeks, and it was no different on Friday. RoundGlass Punjab were able to build patiently from the back and had a set game plan. The hosts received the first big chance of the game in the 13th minute as captain Luka Majcen got free on the right wing and sent a low cross for Brandon Vanlalremdika inside the six-yard box. The Mizo forward had enough time to take a touch to control the ball but was way off the target with his right-footed shot.
Real Kashmir’s Yakubu Wadudu remained an active force in midfield and almost opened the scoring against the run of play in the 25th minute. After showing quick feet on the top of the penalty area, the Ghanaian took a shot from the outside of his boot, but it deflected off an orange shirt to go narrowly wide. Real Kashmir’s Wadudu remained an active force in midfield and almost opened the scoring against the run of play in the 25th minute. After showing quick feet on the top of the penalty area, the Ghanaian took a shot from the outside of his boot, but it deflected off an orange shirt to go narrowly wide.
Real Kashmir had their best chance of the day 15 minutes into the second period. Playing to the whistle, new striker signing Ernest Boateng found himself through on goal while the hosts appealed for a foul in the build-up. However, RoundGlass Punjab custodian Kiran Chemjong was well-positioned, stretching out his right boot to preserve his side’s lead and deny Boateng his first goal of the season. Just when a one-goal lead started to look bleak for the hosts, Vanlalremdika doubled the advantage.
In the 62nd minute, Khaiminthang crossed the ball for Majcen at the far post. Real Kashmir’s Jestin George was caught ball-watching as the Slovenian rose above him to head the ball toward the goal. Although goalkeeper Roy Chowdhury managed to save the header, the rebound fell kindly for Vanlalremdika, who just had to tap into an open net. Real Kashmir never looked like recovering from a two-goal deficit. Head coach Mehrajuddin Wadoo did introduce attacking changes in form of Ibrahim Nurudeen and Girik Khosla, but it wasn’t enough for the Snow Leopards, who’ve now failed to score in three consecutive games.
Counter-attacking TRAU FC defeat dominant Rajasthan United FC
Tiddim Road Athletic Union’s (TRAU) counter-attacking football got the better of Rajasthan United’s attacking game at Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi, as Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh’s wards inflicted a 2-1 loss on the home team in the Hero I-League. It is not often that a team with more attempts at goal and more ball possession ends up on the losing side. But that was exactly the case with Pushpender Kundu’s team as TRAU made better use of the number of chances they got.
Rajasthan United looked like taking charge of the match right from the word go and one of many Lalremsanga crosses found Pintu Mahata unmarked inside the TRAU box when the match was only ten minutes old. Haokip dived to his right to save Mahata’s header. Shaiborlang Kharpan, the only forward, got two chances over the next two minutes but could not convert them. Four minutes later, against the run of play, Brazilian Fernandinho’s creativity from the left and Salam Johnson Singh’s unsettling speed from the right combined to give TRAU the lead. Johnson sneaked into the penalty box unnoticed and landed a picture-perfect volley into the net off Fernandinho’s cross.
The lead did not last long though. Five minutes later, neither Haokip nor any of his defenders tried to intercept Atai’s corner from the left flank. It reached Shaiborlang, standing at the far post. He chested it straight into the goal to make it 1-1. The Kyrgyz midfielder’s corner from the same flank landed TRAU in trouble again in the 28th minute. Haokip failed to fist the ball away and it would have gone in, had one of the defenders not cleared it off the goalline. Three minutes later, Atai himself was guilty of wasting Lalremsanga’s precise cross but shooting it way over the bar from a handshaking distance.
So much attack did not bear fruit for Rajasthan United, it kept vast open spaces behind for TRAU to exploit on the counter instead. They did that successfully in the 40th minute, when Komron Tursunov got between two defenders, getting a beautiful lob from behind. The defenders tried to close him out, but Tursunov kept his cool to send his right footer in and make it 2-1. Rajasthan United got two chances within the first ten minutes of the second half. Lalremsanga’s lob found two men in front of the goal but neither of them could get a touch. On the second occasion, TRAU defenders made another goalline save to deny Lalremsanga.
Kundu brought in Britto PM in search of the equalizer but even he was not able to honor Atai’s solo run across the field and a cross to head it in in the 86th minute. He got another chance in the next minute but misdirected the head once again. In fact, he picked up two yellow cards during his short stay and was sent off a couple of minutes from the final whistle. This result takes TRAU up to the third spot on the Hero I-League table with 22 points from 13 matches, while Rajasthan United are languishing at seventh position with 18 points from 13.
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