2018-2019 I-League Round 11: The Half-Way Mark

thebeautifulgamethebeautifulgame Durgapur,India20445 Points
edited December 2018 in I league
With the national football team currently busy in its AFC Asian Cup engagements and the ISL enjoying its winter break, things have nicely set themselves up before the start of Act II of the country's premier football league, the I-League. Round 10 witnessed a total of 5 matches. Churchill Brothers succumbed to their second defeat on the trot, humbled 1-2 by East Bengal in their own backyard. Indian Arrows registered only their second win of the season, putting in an impressive performance to defeat Gokulam Kerala 1-0. However, it was Real Kashmir who produced one of the biggest upsets of the season, inflicting the first defeat on current league toppers Chennai City, winning 1-0 to occupy the second spot on the table. In the two other matches, Neroca FC ground out a 0-0 draw against last year's champions Minerva Punjab while Mohun Bagan won 2-0 against Shillong Lajong.

Round 11 begins on Friday, 28 December, with Neroca FC  taking on Mohun Bagan in a home match and East Bengal squaring off against Real Kashmir later in the day. Neroca have been quite impressive this season, notching up 3 consecutive victories before the stalemate against Minerva in the earlier round. They would look to bag all 3 points, aware that such a result would catapult them to the top of the league table along with Chennai City at 18 points. Mohun Bagan would be without the services of Sony Norde and Pintu Mahata, but it a must-win match for Shankarlal Chakraborty and his boys for boosting their title aspirations. The encounter between East Bengal and Real Kashmir promises to be an intriguing one: the Kolkata giants would definitely want to continue the momentum and garner full points from this match. Although they are without their star striker, Henry Esqueda, they would take heart from the performances of Joby Justin, currently the league's top Indian goalscorer and their new Spanish recruit, Jaime Santos Colado, who scored a gem of a goal in only his second match for his club. Real Kashmir, on the other hand, have notched up 3 consecutive victories and would look to continue their fairy-tale run. The Indian lads Bilal Khan, Danish Bhat and Surchandra Singh have all played their part while the foreigners like Mason Robertson, Krizo (both doubtful starters in this match), Katebe and Bazie Armand have also chipped in with useful contributions.

On the next day, Aizawl FC would play against Gokulam Kerala while Chennai City take on Shillong Lajong in the evening. Gokulam have had a roller coaster ride this season: after their morale-shattering loss against Arrows, they would be desperate to bounce back against Aizawl,who currently occupy the 10th spot in the table. Aizawl's performance has been extremely underwhelming to say the least, and any further slip-ups by Gift Raikhan's boys would raise the spectre of relegation. Chennai City's unbeaten run was halted by Real Kashmir in the previous round, and they would be looking to secure all three points against Lajong and restore their lead at the top of the table. Shillong Lajong's strategy of playing with an all-Indian squad has massively backfired, and they would need a herculean effort to earn even one point against the current table-toppers.

The last match of this round pits Indian Arrows against Churchill Brothers on Sunday. Two defeats, against Neroca and East Bengal, have severely dented Churchill Brother's hopes, and they would be eyeing full 3 points against Indian Arrows. However, Arrows have shown that on their day, they can be a match for any team, and it would be interesting to see what strategy Floyd Pinto adopts to contain the likes of Willis Plaza and Dawda Ceesay.

Bye: Minerva Punjab FC

Matches:
Friday, 28 December, 2018
Mohun Bagan vs NEROCA FC (14:00, Khuman Lumpak Stadium)
Real Kashmir FC  vs Quess East Bengal (17:00, YBK)

Saturday, 29 December, 2018
Gokulam Kerala FC vs Aizawl FC (14:00, Rajiv Gandhi Stadium)
Chennai City FC vs Shillong Lajong FC (17:00, Nehru Stadium)

Sunday, 30 December 2018
Indian Arrows vs Churchill Brothers FCG (17:00, Kalinga Stadium)
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