Bineesh Balan and five other Indian hat-trick heroes in the I-League
The Goan derby between Churchill Brothers and Sporting Clube de Goa produced a goal fest on Sunday as title contenders Churchill won 8-4 to go top of the I-League table. Normally in such high scoring games in Indian football, the foreign strikers are expected to bag hat-tricks, but on this occasion the only hat-trick came from an Indian player.
23-year-old Bineesh Balan scored thrice in the first 40 minutes to become only the sixth Indian player to net a hat-trick in the I-League (since the 2007-08 season). The man from Kerala showed great composure and power to find the back of the net three times in a match that was completely dominated by Churchill Brothers.
Sportskeeda lists the five previous Indian hat-trick heroes.
Baljit Sahni (JCT) vs Shillong Lajong (October 4 2009)
No Indian managed to score a hat-trick in the first two seasons of the I-League, but the wait was finally over in the opening weekend of the 2009-10 season as JCT’s Baljit Sahni netted thrice in the 5-1 thrashing of Shillong Lajong at the Guru Nanak Dev Stadium in Ludhiana. This was Shillong Lajong’s first-ever game in the I-League and it turned out to be a nightmare as JCT dominated from start to finish, with Baljit scripting his own individual piece of history. Aged only 22 back then, Baljit, who was transformed from a winger to a striker, opened the scoring after just 10 minutes following a fine pass from Jagpreet Singh. He got his second midway through the first half after combining well with striker partner Balwant Singh. The hat-trick goal came in the 70th minute when he headed home Penn Orji’s cross.
Anil Kumar (Viva Kerala) vs Air India (February 20 2011)
It took more than 16 months to see another Indian score a hat-trick in the I-League and that was achieved by Viva Kerala striker Anil Kumar in the 7-1 hammering of Air India. Anil was a late starter in the professional game as prior to the 2010-11 season, he was playing for KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board), where he also had a job. But despite this being his first season in the Indian top flight, Anil finished as the second highest Indian scorer with 11 goals and this hat-trick was one of his best displays of the season. The match was a completely one-sided contest at Kannur’s Jawahar Municipal Stadium, with Anil giving Viva an early advantage after heading home Chinta Chandrasekhar’s cross. He scored his second just after the interval after getting on the end of a T Karma cross and completed his hat-trick in the 82nd minute. Anil’s performances that season saw him earn a national team call up and a big money move to Dempo although he could never get going in Goa due to injuries.
Jeje Lalpekhlua (Indian Arrows) vs Air India (March 13 2011)
The formation of the Indian Arrows (now Pailan Arrows) in the 2010-11 I-League opened up the possibility of seeing more Indians scoring hat-tricks as usually Indians don’t get to play upfront for other I-League clubs. Jeje Lalpekhlua from Mizoram was by the far the biggest goal threat of the Desmond Bulpin-coached Arrows side that season and he would go on to score two hat-tricks to finish as the highest Indian scorer with 13 goals. In the first of those hat-tricks, he scored four goals in the 5-2 win over Air India at the Shahu Maharaj Stadium in Kolhapur. Air India had taken an early lead in this game but Manandeep Singh equalized for Indian Arrows. Then, it was the Jeje Lalpekhlua show as he scored in the 16th, 17th, 72nd and 79th minute to become only the fourth Indian after Bhaichung Bhutia, Manjit Singh and Agnelo Gomes to score four in a single match in the combined history of the National Football League and I-League.
Jeje Lalpekhlua (Pailan Arrows) vs Mohun Bagan (May 29 2011)
Jeje’s second hat-trick that season would come in the final round of the 2010-11 season when he bagged three in the 5-4 win over Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan at Gurgaon’s Tau Devi Lal Stadium. Mohun Bagan had a poor season as they failed to win a trophy and never threatened to be in the title race. The young Arrows team destroyed them in the first 25 minutes as they went 4-0 up with Jeje bagging a brace. The striker scored his first after a trademark long throw from Arrows skipper Raju Gaikwad and his second was a great left footed shot. Raju went off with an injury in the 40th minute and that opened the door for a Mohun Bagan comeback as they made it 4-3 in the 78th minute. But Jeje ensured the points and confirmed his status as one of India’s best strikers by completing his hat-trick in the 87th minute. Mohun Bagan’s Nigerian striker Muritala Ali would also score his third to make it 5-4 in injury time but the day belonged to the young Arrows team and their clinical striker.
CS Sabeeth (Pailan Arrows) vs Viva Kerala (April 25 2012)
After an impressive display in the 2010-11 season, the Arrows, who were re-branded as Pailan Arrrows, were set to have a difficult season as almost the entire squad was lost to other clubs. Sukhwinder Singh replaced Desmond Bulpin at the helm but even the legendary Indian coach failed to get the best out of a fresh new group of youngsters. Sukhwinder left midway through the season as Sujit Chakraborty was appointed the interim coach till the end of the season. Arrows failed to win their first 23 games but were immune to relegation. India U-23 international CS Sabeeth was possibly the only big name in their squad and the striker would finally end their winless streak by scoring a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Viva Kerala, a result that would relegate his former club. Sabeeth scored his first goal after a mistake from Viva keeper Sharath K and got his second just before the half-time break after getting on the end of a Bikramjit Singh pass. Sabeeth’s hat-trick goal came from the penalty spot as he finished the season as the highest Indian scorer and earned a move to Mohun Bagan.