Round two of the 2013-14 I-League finally saw some telecast as two matches were shown LIVE but still there were plenty of complaints from regular Indian football fans about the presentation and commentary of the matches. Given the fading brand value of I-League, can anything better be expected? Maybe not, but the fans deserve better and hopefully the coverage will improve as the season progresses.
In terms of action on the pitch, it was equally dull as there were only nine goals in five matches with two goalless draws. Strangely Indians outscored foreigners on this matchday with five Indians getting on the scoresheet including India national team strikers Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua. They were two of the few Indian strikers who started at the weekend and it just shows what our Indian players can do if they are given a chance.
It was also encouraging to see United SC coach Eelco Schattorie being ethically faithful to the under-23 rule in this round as he replaced a U-23 player Mohammed Rafique player with another starlet Biswajit Biswas, who went on to score in the Kolkata club’s 3-1 win over Sporting Clube. It was a huge contrast from last week when Schattorie totally exposed the loop hole in the rule by replacing Biswas with CK Vineeth after just five minutes.
When we talk about goals in the I-League, one name that has to be mentioned is Ranti Martins. There are many new foreign strikers in the I-League this season with some being more high profile than United SC’s Nigerian. But the opening rounds have shown that Ranti still remains the favourite to finish as the league’s highest scorer. The former Dempo man is aiming for that accolade for a record fourth consecutive season and already has two in as many games.
And he is not completely fit yet as his club only started pre-season late in August. Just imagine how clinical and prolific he will be once he is fully match fit. In the I-League, Ranti scores when he wants.
Game of the round
United SC 3-1 Sporting Clube de Goa
In truth, none of the weekend’s five games produced enough quality but this game was the best among the worst. In a round that failed to produce enough goals, this fixture was just one of the two games where both sides scored. There was attacking intent from both sides but in the end United SC prevailed largely thanks to their foreign strikers Ranti and Eric Brown. They have possibly been the most consistent front pairing of the first two rounds and the duo will be instrumental for sponsorless United SC this season.
While Ranti has looked a bit unfit in the first two games, Brown has been in fine shape and his all round play has been very impressive. The Liberian could have had a couple of assists in the game but finished off in style by scoring a brilliant solo goal to seal the points and take his new club to the top of table.
With Ogba Kalu Nnanna being the only retained foreigner from last season, Sporting Clube remains a work in progress under Oscar Bruzon so the loss to United SC shouldn’t deflate their spirits too much. But the Spanish coach will be determined to get their first win of the season as soon as possible and have another tough away fixture to look forward to against Shillong Lajong.
Result of the round
Bengaluru FC 3-0 Rangdajied United
Bengaluru FC won the battle of the debutants to register their first-ever win in Indian football. They only had to wait for their second game to reach this milestone and the ease with which it came will certainly impress their growing fanbase. Both clubs had local players with limited I-League experience but the difference in the quality of the foreigners was evident while Bengaluru also had a certain Sunil Chhetri in their team.
The JSW-owned club dominated from start to finish and scored three excellent goals. Although they are immune to relegation, the Bengaluru club look good to stay well away from the drop zone on the evidence of their first two performances and the turnouts have also been encouraging with the club doing everything to make strides off the pitch as well with matchday programmes being the latest addition. However coach Ashley Westwood and the senior players will be well aware that the season is long and the youngsters will be tested heavily in away matches as well. But they couldn’t have wished for a better start.
Rangdajied United though look early favourites to be relegated. Coach Santosh Kashyap has done wonders previously with Air India and ONGC but the squad at the Shillong club lacks both quality and I-League experience. They have a few home matches to look forward now and that is where Kashyap would be looking to turn their fortunes and build some self-belief within the squad.
Foreigner – Eric Brown (United SC)
Ranti remains the star of United SC and the I-League in general but Liberian Brown’s reputation has also got enhanced after the first two rounds. The former ONGC man matched his brilliant strike on matchday one with a great solo effort against Sporting Clube and looked lively throughout for the table toppers.
Indian – Beikhokhei Beingaichho (Bengaluru FC)
The former East Bengal man assisted two goals in his side’s 3-0 victory and was a joy to watch for the entire 90 minutes. Beikhokhaei showed immense potential while at East Bengal initially but then lost his way a bit. He looked rejuvenated for Bengaluru FC on Sunday and will be aiming to build on that for the rest of the season.
This column is much smaller compared to last week which is encouraging but there was something repeated from the first round as once again there was an ambulance mishap. This time Shillong Lajong were the culprits as the kickoff of their home game against Pune FC was pushed back because there was just one ambulance in the ground instead of the mandatory two. Like Mohammedan Sporting last week, Lajong will be fined for this incident. Interestingly Pune FC were the away team on the previous occasion also (surely co-incidence).