Matchday eight of the 2019-’20 I-League season was a low-scoring affair, witnessing nine goals from just four matches but in terms of the title race, there were quite a few surprises.
Mohun Bagan held on to their lead at the top after Subha Ghosh’s late equaliser salvaged a point for the leaders against Punjab FC, who remained on the second spot.
North Eastern sides TRAU FC and Neroca FC also secured narrow victories while title contenders East Bengal slipped to fifth after losing to Gokulam Kerala.
The I-League will now resume on Sunday with the first Kolkata derby of the season taking place but here’s what we learned from the week gone by:
Subha Ghosh stakes a claim for starting role
Leaders Mohun Bagan survived a massive scare from Punjab FC and were fortunate to leave Ludhiana with a point.
The table-toppers started brightly but were frustrated throughout the ninety minutes by the home side’s dogged defending. They were also guilty of missing some golden chances in front of goal.
But when all hope was lost, a comeback came from the unlikeliest of sources - youngster Subha Ghosh who rescued Bagan after coming off the bench. It was Ghosh’s third goal of the season as a substitute and this time, it came at a crucial juncture.
The teenager dispossessed defender Teah Dennis and took his chance by unleashing a fierce shot before Punjab FC could crowd their own box.
Despite not starting a match for Mohun Bagan yet, he remains the top-scoring Indian in the league. Going by his current form, it may be no surprise if he is named in the starting eleven for the Kolkata derby.
Back-to-back wins for TRAU FC
TRAU’s debut season in the I-League had got off to a nightmarish start. They were stuttering at the bottom after going winless in five matches, their first three all ending in defeats.
Displaying that their Imphal-derby victory against Neroca was not a flash in the pan, they beat Indian Arrows comfortably to continue their resurgence.
It was a game where their work ethic and perseverance fetched them three points. They pressed Venkatesh Shanmugam’s Arrows side relentlessly, who fielded a new 3-4-3 formation and forced them to commit errors.
Even after Ngangbam Singh had given the visitors the lead just before half-time, TRAU refused to sit back and defend their one-goal cushion.
They were rewarded another goal by Olariche Emeka at the death that propelled them to seventh.
East Bengal humbled at home
East Bengal would have been favoured to warm up for this weekend’s Kolkata derby with another home victory. However, their toothless display in a 1-3 defeat against Gokulam Kerala only left them with more problems than solutions as they dropped one rung to fifth.
The hosts were bound to be tested given that Spanish centre-back Borja Gomez had flown back home due to personal reasons. Despite the numbers being evenly-matched, the Red & Golds looked far from their best and slumped their second defeat on the trot.
Gokulam forwards Henry Kisseka and Marcus Joseph had a field day and much of it was due to defensive errors committed by Alejandro Menendez’s side. They were sloppy in possession and looked vulnerable whenever the opposition threatened on the counter-attack.
In the other half, Gokulam goalkeeper Ubaid CK hardly broke a sweat as East Bengal’s attack proved ineffective even when they had the ball.
They have been banking on striker Marcos Jimenez for the goals and despite netting thrice this season, his performances have left a lot to be desired.
As another big test awaits them this Sunday, it remains to be seen how Bagan can learn quickly from their mistakes.