With the highly-anticipated Kolkata Derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan postponed due to security concerns alongside Real Kashmir’s home game against Churchill Brothers which was cancelled due to closure of Srinagar airport, matchday five of the I-League witnessed just three games.
All three contest ended in exciting draws with 14 goals scored overall. East Bengal continued to top the table after their unbeaten start to the season while Punjab FC dug deep against Aizawl to secure a point. TRAU FC were left hunting for their first win of the season as they were held to a draw by Kashmir while Chennai City also failed to secure a victory against Neroca FC.
With action now resuming after Christmas, here’s a look at the major talking points from the fifth round of the I-League:
Comeback kings Punjab FC
There was drama in Imphal with Aizawl FC and Punjab FC sharing the spoils in a six-goal thriller, five of which came in the first half.
But Punjab switched gears in the second half and substitute Dipanda Dicka’s partnership with Sergio Barboza Jr wreaked havoc in the Aizawl backline. Their fightback won them a reward as they were awarded a penalty in injury time which Brazilian Barboza converted with ease.
Since their humbling defeat against Churchill Brothers in the opener, Punjab FC are now unbeaten in their last four games and have moved to second spot in the table.
Chennai City’s struggles continue
Just before half time against Neroca FC at home, it seemed as if defending champions Chennai City were on course for their second victory of the season. But the visiting team had other plans, as they rallied to salvage a vital point in Coimbatore.
The hosts had taken a 2-0 lead with two strikes within a span of five minutes from Kartsumi Yusa an Mashoor Thangalakath. But Khaiminthang Lhungdim struck in injury time in the first half for Neroca to bring the visitors back in the game. A reckless foul on Boubacar Diarra after the break, then saw Akbar Nawas’ men concede the equaliser in the 65th minute.
Chennai had plenty of gas left in the tank but with talisman striker Pedro Manzi missing out due to a groin injury, Yusa and other forwards lacked the composure to convert chances in front of goal. The result saw the defedning champions slip to seventh spot in the standings, with just one win from their opening four games.
Mason Robertson thrives in new role
Real Kashmir coach David Robertson’s decision to convert his son Mason from a defender to attacker is starting to pay dividends.
Starting his first game of the season, the former left-back repaid his father’s trust with a brace against TRAU FC. He scored the opener with a well-taken goal, dispossessing his opponent before making a run towards goal and finishing it off with a neat strike.
His second came off a deflection but he was at the right place and grabbed the equaliser for Real Kashmir in the dying stages of the game to grab a point for his team.
An early contender for the golden boot title?