High on confidence after their impressive win over defending champions Chennai City FC in their previous match, Punjab FC will play host to All India Football Federation developmental side’s Indian Arrows in an I-League game in Ludhiana on Monday.
The match against the Arrows will be Punjab’s third successive match at home, while for the travelling youngsters, it will be their first on the road this season.
Since losing to Churchill Brothers in their season opener in Goa, Punjab have drawn against East Bengal 1-1 before beating Chennai City 3-1 in a thoroughly impressive performance on December 10 at home.
Reflecting on his side’s impressive display, Punjab FC head coach Yan Law said, “Against Chennai, the boys showed good tactical discipline and a fantastic desire to win.
“Even after a late equaliser from Chennai, the lads showed pure class and pulled back two more goals in the dying minutes of the game. I’m very proud of each and every one of them and I know they are capable of doing much more.”
Indian Arrows, on the other hand, have played twice at home and despite showing grit and tenacity came up short against Gokulam Kerala and Aizawl. A positive result against Punjab in an away trip could serve as a massive boost to get their campaign.
Speaking ahead of the match, head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh said, “We know that Punjab FC won by a good margin against defending champions Chennai City in their last match and their confidence and motivation levels will be high, for sure.
“It will be their third consecutive home match and for us, we are playing away for the first time this season. We have adapted well to conditions so far and the weather has been really good and ideal for playing football. We will give our best in the game.
Clash of heavyweights
Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan will look to turn the tide against Gokulam Kerala FC, a side they have not beaten in five previous encounters, as they are slated to host them in Monday’s second I-League game at the Kalyani Municipality Stadium in West Bengal.
Gokulam have an all-win record from their two games so far and look well organized while Bagan redeemed themselves with a 4-0 victory over debutants TRAU FC in their previous game, after failing to register a win in their first two. In fact, they went down 2-4 to Churchill Brothers at home in their second game.
Ugandan frontman Henry Kisekka and Trinidadian striker Marcus Joseph have scored all of Gokulam’s three goals so far and are their standout performers by a mile, while another Trinidadian Nathaniel Garcia, imposed himself very well in midfield in the second game against the Indian Arrows.
Their Spanish coach Fernando Varela, however, refused to read much into Gokulam’s recent form and success against their opponents who they had beaten in their only previous encounter this season in the Durand Cup.
Sharing his thoughts ahead of the game, he said, “Mohun Bagan are a very competitive side with great players and with quality to make a combined game. We must be concentrating for 90 minutes to beat them and we will concentrate on our improvement as a team and how to play a good game. The League has just begun and we must continue to improve.”
For the hosts, this will be their final game before next Sunday’s big ‘derby’ against rivals Quess East Bengal and they would love to carry momentum into that blockbuster clash - one of world football’s biggest derby games.
They have shown signs of combining better as a team as the league has progressed. They lost a high-scoring entertaining game against Goan side Churchill Brothers after having 71% of ball possession and then completely overwhelmed TRAU. They have also seemingly unearthed the young and fresh Subha Ghosh, who has come off the bench and scored in two successive games.
Kibu Vicuna, Spaniard coach of Bagan, brushed aside his side’s previous result against Gokulam in the Durand Cup when prompted, saying in the pre-game chat among other things, “It is a different game tomorrow. That match was very even and we didn’t take advantage of the chances we had at the end of the match. We know that we have a hard game to play but we are prepared to face it. Our objective is to see that we are able to play well in order to garner the full three points.”
With both sides relatively fresh and at full strength, it promises to be a good competitive game of football in front of a vocal and partisan crowd at Kalyani.