Shilarze Saha Roy
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: As the I-League progresses in Round 5, the early stages are already showcasing emerging patterns and standout performances. A handful of teams have quickly distinguished themselves, setting the bar high and meeting expectations after four exciting rounds of matches. Meanwhile, other squads are still trying to settle down and are in the process of finding their right lineup and strategy. Individual players, too, have stepped into the spotlight with notable contributions, adding to the anticipation for Round 5, which promises more thrilling matches.
At the forefront are table-toppers Gokulam Kerala FC with 10 points from four matches. Despite a third-place finish last season, the two-time I-League champions have hit the ground running this year. They began the league with a draw but rapidly gained momentum, easily beating teams like NEROCA FC, Rajasthan FC, and TRAU FC. They will now aim to extend this winning streak in their upcoming away game against Shillong Lajong FC on Sunday, November 19, 2023.
Shillong Lajong, in contrast, are eyeing their first victory of the season. After drawing their first three matches, a triumph over the league leaders could significantly boost their morale and send a strong statement. The absence of Gokulam’s first-choice goalkeeper, Devansh Dabas, also presents a potential opportunity for Shillong Lajong to capitalize on.
It’s not only Gokulam Kerala who have made a strong comeback this season. Kolkata giants Mohammedan Sporting, who finished eighth last season, have also been making waves with their impressive performances. They have emerged as strong contenders for the title, amassing 10 points from four matches. This impressive tally includes victories over TRAU, Aizawl FC, and Delhi FC, along with a draw against Shillong Lajong.
However, Mohammedan Sporting faced a setback during their last win against Delhi FC. Their Argentinian forward, Alexis Gomez, and Uzbekistan midfielder, Mirjalol Kasimov, received red cards and they will be ruled out for the next match. These absences could pose a significant challenge as Mohammedan Sporting prepare for their next game against Rajasthan United FC on Saturday, November 18, 2023. To maintain their winning run, the team will certainly need to navigate these challenges effectively.
Facing Mohammedan Sporting won’t be an easy feat, but Rajasthan United FC will come into the match with confidence. They secured their first win of the 2023-24 I-League season in their last match when they defeated Churchill Brothers FC. With Mohammedan Sporting missing two crucial players, Rajasthan United will know that they have a golden opportunity to leverage this advantage and strive for another crucial victory.
These matches, though, are not the only ones which will test the players’ resilience and coaches’ strategy. While Churchill Brothers will hope to return to winning ways against Inter Kashi, NEROCA FC will be searching for their first win when they face Namdhari FC. With all these teams hoping to climb up the table, round 5 of I-League matches can potentially reshape the league standings.
While football is fundamentally a team sport, it also provides a stage for individual brilliance to shine. A prime example of this was witnessed in Aizawl FC forward Lalrinzuala Lalbiaknia’s performance in the previous round. His remarkable hat-trick turned the game on its head, propelling his team to an impressive 3-1 comeback victory against NEROCA FC. As the next round approaches, attention will inevitably focus on Lalrinzuala, yet it’s entirely possible that another player will seize the opportunity to make an impactful statement in these matches. And that certainly goes to create an extra layer of excitement for fans.
Matches will be broadcast live on the Eurosport channel and streamed live on the Indian Football YouTube page and FanCode.