The improvement in the quality of the broadcast was a welcome change as gameweek three of the 2019-’20 I-League season came to a close on Tuesday.
Churchill Brothers, who top the standings, along with Gokulam Kerala carried on their perfect start to the season having secured maximum points from their opening two fixtures.
Crucial wins for contenders East Bengal, Minerva Punjab and Mohun Bagan also spiced up the title race while defending champions Chennai City suffered a shock defeat.
TRAU FC’s debut season in the second tier has been a story of struggles with the Manipur-based club staying at the bottom following two successive defeats. New-look Indian Arrows have endured the same fate and are not too far behind, just a spot above the newcomers.
Here is a look at the key talking from the previous two gameweeks:
Bumpy start for Indian Arrows
Taking over from Floyd Pinto as Indian Arrows manager, Venkatesh Shanmugam didn’t have the best of starts to his stint with his team losing their opening two games. They find themselves in the wrong half of the table despite promising performances in both fixtures.
While a victory against heavyweights Gokulam Kerala was unlikely, the Arrows conceded just one goal in a gritty defeat. In their second match, they went toe-to-toe against Aizawl FC, created chances, dictated the tempo of the game and levelled the score only to be denied by a late Joe Zoherliana header.
Plaza can’t stop scoring
Willis Plaza netted a brace against Mohun Bagan to help Churchill Brothers climb to the top of the standings. The Trinidad and Tobago hitman was prolific despite few chances coming his way, first heading a cross from Dawda Ceesay before scoring a stunner from outside the box where he caught goalkeeper Debjit Majumder off guard.
His partnership with Robert Junior Primus upfront proved to be a handful for the Mohun Bagan defense and Plaza has carried from where he left last season. The 32-year-old striker finished as joint-top scorer alongside Chennai City’s Pedro Manzi with 21 goals.
Given his ability to find the net even with the difficult chances, Plaza’s form will be vital if the Goan side need to consolidate their spot at the top.
Rock-solid Punjab FC
No team had tougher opening fixtures on paper in the 2019-’20 I-League than Punjab FC. They were up against Churchill Brothers, East Bengal and defending champions Chennai City in their opening three games.
The team morale was already low after a hapless 0-3 defeat to Churchill in their opener. But the former champions bounced back, securing four points from their next two fixtures, both which have come due to sturdy defensive displays.
Juan Mera Gonzalez’s late goal robbed them of three points at home in a dominant display but Punjab made a bigger statement by outclassing Chennai City in a thriller that witnessed four goals in the last 12 minutes.
Despite Manzi’s equaliser, they rallied back with goals from 16-year-old Thoiba Singh before Sergio Barboza’s header in stopping time sealed their win.
Centre-back Danilo has been the backbone of the defence and the Brazilian has also posed a threat from corners, with a goal to his name.
Bagan get in the groove
The Mariners, who had secured just one point from their opening two games, grabbed their first win of the season in style with a 4-0 drubbing of debutants TRAU FC on Tuesday.
The failure of nicking out results despite dominanting their opponents was proving to be a concern for new manager Kibu Vicuna and club fans. Against Aizawl FC, his side failed to convert their chances while defensive errors resulted in a heavy defeat against Churchill Brothers.
However, all doubts were quashed with an emphatic home victory against TRAU as Bagan hardly put a foot wrong at both ends of the pitch.
Vicuna has tougher tests lying ahead for him as his side face Gokulam Kerala, East Bengal and Real Kashmir in their next three fixtures.