The 2015 I League that began towards the end of January has been nothing short of exciting. Having picked up their first Federation Cup, reigning Champions Bengaluru FC were certain favourites going into the premier football competition in India but other contenders have emerged with Pune FC and Mohun Bagan putting in strong performances. The managerial merry-go-round has come full circle with an entire host of managerial changes happening in the I League this season.
I League: Bengaluru FC Off To A Terrible Start; Royal Wahingdoh Begin Well
The football fraternity of India expected a complete Bengaluru DC dominance into the first half of the I league. The Blues faced Arthur Papas’ Dempo SC in their new home stadium- The Sree Kanteerava Stadium. Despite the more expensive revised ticket prices, Blues fans flocked to the Kanteerava to support their men.
However, despite their recent success, the BFC faithful were in for a rude shock. Following their 0-0 stalemate to Dempo, the champions were trashed in their own backyard 3-1 to an impressive Pune FC. The rejuvenated Red Lizards put up a magnificent performance at Bangalore, with Thongkhosiem Haokip ripping the Bengaluru defence to shreds.
Despite winning the following few matches and putting up decent performances in their following matches, the Blues suffered yet another humiliation as they lost 4-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium to Mohun Bagan. The loss raised serious questions regarding Ashley Westwood’s philosophy and more importantly, the goalkeeping of Lalthuammawia Ralte.
However, fans and pundits soon forgot the horrible loss following BFC’s win in the AFC Cup.
Newly promoted Royal Wahingdoh have been a pleasant revelation in the I League. Their above par performances in the Federation Cup caught the eye of many. That said, their campaign in the current I League has seen the Royal’s punch well above their weight. Liberian Bekay Bewar and Indian wonderkid Jackichand Singh have propelled Santosh Kashyap’s men to the top half of the table.
Goa Teams Fare Badly
The teams from Indian football powerhouse Goa include Salgaocar, Sporting Clube de Goa and Dempo SC. This season however, has seen the Fatorda stadium a much dreaded ground for these iconic Indian sides.
Sporting Goa in particular have found it extremely hard following the resignation of Oscar Bruzon. Mateus Costa’s first appointment as manager has been an unforgiving baptism of fire. Despite signing the likes of Sandesh Jhingan and Anthony Wolfe, the Flaming Oranje are currently at the foot of the table and it increasing seems that they will follow their Goan counterparts Churchill Brothers to the second division of the I League.
Dempo’s horrible start too has seen them slip to mid table. The terrible performances and the loss of Romeo Fernandes saw Australian tactician Arthur Papas turn in his resignation recently. While the Dempo management is currently searching for a replacement, it remains to be seen how the top side of Goa perform in the following months of the I League.
Pune FC, Mohun Bagan And Kingfisher East Bengal On The Ascendency
The appointment of Karim Bencherifa at the helm of Pune FC has done a world of good for the Red Lizards. The Morrocan’s influence on the team is already beginning to show in their attacking relentless. Their 3-1 win over Bengaluru FC earned them a critical away win. Thongkhosiem Haokip and Eric Brown have been the stars of the show. Captain Arata Izumi too has been a key component to the Pune FC cause.
Kolkata, the footballing capital of India has not yet seen one of its teams win the prestigious I league. Despite the long standing history and credentials of Mohun Bagan and Kingfisher East Bengal, the city of joy still yearns for its first I league title.
India’s oldest club Mohun Bagan this season have the upper hand. It must be said that the managerial change has worked well for the Mariners. Sanjoy Sen’s men are currently on pole position. The likes of Bello Razaq, Katsumi Yusa, Pritam Kotal and Sony Norde have been key in ensuring that the Mariners haven’t lost a game yet this season. Whether they will remain unbeaten the entire season remains to be seen.
East Bengal manager Armando Colaco has been forced to resign by the management despite the East Bengal club finding their form and sitting pretty in fifth place behind Royal Wahingdoh.
So it will be interesting to see if Pune and Mohun Bagan can maintain their dominance and whether the defending champions can make a comeback. Keep reading sports rediscovered to follow the I league