By Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay
NEW DELHI: 12 goals were netted in the 8th game week of the Hero I-League and the enthralling 360 minutes of football resulted major changes in the league table. The game week kicked off with the refurbished North-eastern derby where newcomers Aizawl FC welcomed Shillong Lajong FC at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium. The North-east derby was followed by the big showdown between Bengaluru FC and defending champions Mohun Bagan at Sree Kanteerava stadium. There was another double-header on Sunday as Sporting Clube de Goa hosted Mumbai FC and debutants DSK Shivajians clashed their swords with Salgaocar FC.
The picturesque city of Aizawl played the host to Shillong Lajong FC and the football fanatic crowd poured in numbers in support of their home team. Incidentally, it was the first game for Jahar Das at the helm after Aizawl FC parted with Spanish coach Manuel Fraile. The game started at a great pace but mellowed down with time. Thangboi Singto had to go for an early change after Fabio Pena injured himself in the 26th minute. Apart from the deadly effort by Lalmunkima in the 40th minute, there was hardly any chance created by Aizawl FC in the first half. After the sojourn, Lajong showed their urgency and tried to show their creativity from the corners but Poirei stood sternly to thwart all their efforts.
Bengaluru FC fans created a hostile atmosphere for the defending champions and the Blues reciprocated well in the first half as well. It was mostly a midfield battle in the first 45 minutes and no team were ready to lose the plot. Both outfits stressed on a physical game which resulted in three cautions for Bengaluru FC. On the hour-mark, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai brought down Sony and the referee didn’t hesitate to give him the marching order. Bengaluru FC gaffer didn’t opt for a ‘shut-the-shop’ strategy even after the massive blow and introduced Vineeth in the attacking third. Mohun Bagan went for an all out attack and Jeje Lalpekhlua found the back of the net in the 74th minute. Debjit Majumdar once again proved his worth and kept Bengaluru FC attackers at bay till the end. In the added minutes, Sony Norde sealed all three points with an exquisite goal and scripted their maiden win at the Sree Kanteerava stadium.
Sporting Clube de Goa hosted Mumbai FC on the Valentine’s Day but the match was poised to be no love-affair as both teams came to the pitch to amass all three points. From a well-taken corner by Allan Dias, Sushil Singh found the net just after 15 minutes. Their delirium could not last long as Nicholas Fernandes canceled the lead within 7 minutes. After the breather, Sushil Singh put his team on the driving seat once again in the 57th minute and took his goal tally to 3 in the ongoing Hero I-League. More drama was followed as Mumbai FC conceded a penalty in the 73rd minute when Ashutosh Mehta brought down Glan Martins in the box and Odafa drew parity from the spot kick. The Flaming Oranje finally killed it when skipper Odafa Okolie steeped up to take the second spot kick in the second half just 4 minutes to the final whistle. Following a mistimed tackle by Pratik Chowdhury on Victorino Fernandes, referee awarded the penalty in the Flaming Oranje’s favour and Odafa did no mistake to net his 5th goal in Hero I-League.
Having gathered 2 points from their last two home fixtures, Salgaocar FC traveled to Pune. Santosh Kashyap didn’t hide his intentions and he deployed Darryl Duffy, Semboi Haokip, and Calvin Mbarga in the attacking third to hurl on the nervy DSK Shivajians defense. Duffy, the prolific goal-machine, got his first one in the 39th minute. The Scot doubled their lead just before the first half from the top of the box. Time was running fast for Derrick Pereira and he introduced Aser Pierric Dipanda Dica before the hour mark at the expense of Md. Rafi. Duffy completed his hat-trick, second hat-trick in the ongoing Hero I-League after Ranti Martins, in the 66th minute. 6 minutes later, Dica scored their first one from inside the 6-yard box and brought some life in the match. 5 minutes to the final whistle, the Frenchman added another with a carbon copy to the first one. The home team played their heart out to clinch a point from the humdinger but the Greens held their nerves till the final whistle and garnered their first win of the season.
After the game week 8, Bengaluru FC still hold the top spot with 15 points from 8 matches, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and Kingfisher East Bengal continue their quest for the silverware and now they are just 1 point shy of the leaders, having played 2 matches and 1 match less respectively. Sporting Clube de Goa have now surged up to the 4th position with 11 points from 7 matches, all thanks to their emphatic win over Mumbai FC. The other Goan outfit, Salgaocar FC have climbed up to the 7th spot with 5 points, all thanks to their win against DSK Shivajians at Balewadi, who are still tottering at the bottom of the table with 4 points.