Five memorable goal-fests in the I-League
It was a pity that Sunday’s goal-fest between Churchill Brothers and Sporting Clube de Goa in Margao wasn’t televised live, as it’s not every week that you see 12 goals in the I-League with both sides scoring four at least. Churchill Brothers will forever remember the game, as they were on the right side of the scoreline, scoring eight, with young Bineesh Balan becoming only the sixth Indian to score a hattrick in the I-League.
The 8-4 scoreline was still short of Dempo’s 14-0 win over Air India in terms of most goals scored in one match, but it was undoubtedly the best goal-fest since the start of the I-League in 2007.
Sportskeeda lists five previous memorable goal fests in the I-League:
Salgaocar 4-5 Mohun Bagan (December 22, 2007)
A hattrick from Salgaocar’s Nigerian striker Felix Chimaokwu went in vain in this nine-goal thriller as his side’s defence was brutally exposed by Mohun Bagan’s high-profile strike partnership of Bhaichung Bhutia and Jose Ramirez Barreto. The lead changed hands several times in the game, as Mohun Bagan went in front first through Bhaichung, only to be pegged back by Salgaocar’s other foreign striker Boniface Ambani. Felix then gave the hosts the lead in Margao but a Barreto brace and a Jonathan Chimezie goal gave the Kolkata side a 4-2 lead at halftime. Salgaocar fought back in the second half through Felix, who scored twice to make it 4-4 but Mohun Bagan regained their lead thanks a to a brilliant curling freekick from Lukram James Singh, which turned out to be the winner. Salgaocar’s defensive weaknesses on that day were prevalent for the rest of the season as well, as the Goan side got relegated, conceding 37 goals in 18 matches.
East Bengal 3-5 Mohun Bagan (October 25, 2009)
Derby clashes often tend to be tense, tight and low-scoring affairs, but this contest between the two arch-rivals produced eight goals and had extra significance as Mohun Bagan put five past East Bengal for the very first time. Nirmal Chettri put East Bengal in front early on, but Mohun Bagan hit back with three goals as Edeh Chidi scored twice and young Manish Maithani netted the other. East Bengal’s Ghanaian forward Yusif Yakubu scored twice in succession to make it 3-3 at halftime, as both sides completely forgot their defensive responsibilities. The 15-minute break helped regroup Mohun Bagan, but East Bengal continued to look vulnerable at the back, which allowed Chidi to make it 4-3 and become the first player since Bhaichung Bhutia in 1997 to score a hattrick in this famous derby. The Nigerian soon went one better by bagging his fourth and Mohun Bagan’s fifth. It was a memorable day for the green-and-maroon brigade as they somewhat extinguished the disappointment of losing 5-0 to East Bengal in the 1975 IFA Shield final while Chidi guaranteed himself a place in Mohun Bagan’s folklore.
Pune FC 4-4 Viva Kerala (February 26, 2011)
Three weeks after the incredible 4-4 draw between Newcastle United and Arsenal in the English Premier League (EPL), the I-League also saw an eight-goal thriller with Viva Kerala doing a ‘Newcastle’ by coming back from four goals down to draw 4-4 away at Pune FC. Just like Arsenal, Pune raced into a four-goal lead in the first half thanks to goals from Edmar Figuera, Gurjinder Kumar, Mandjou Keita and Shanmugam Venkatesh. Unlike Newcastle, Viva Kerala didn’t have any numerical advantage to start the comeback and had pulled one back before halftime through Anil Kumar. Felix Chimaokwu converted a penalty early in the second half to make it 4-2 and the comeback was complete in a six-minute double salvo in the final 15 minutes of the game with Felix and Anil once again getting on the score sheet. It was a crazy game full of chances with both sides also having a goal disallowed each. The comeback was a huge psychological boost for Viva Kerala as they went on to avoid relegation quite comfortably.
This goal-fest came in the final weekend of the 2010-11 season, with the newly-formed Indian Arrows team playing to their full potential and Mohun Bagan showing that despite their strengths upfront, they were just not good enough defensively. The young Arrows team, coached by Desmond Bulpin, went 4-0 up inside the first 25 minutes thanks to braces from striker Jeje Lalpekhlua and midfielder Shilton D’Silva. It forced Mohun Bagan technical director Subhas Bhowmick to bring on Edeh Chidi and Ishfaq Ahmed in an inconsequential match that was turning into a humiliation for the Kolkata giants. Injury to Arrows skipper and central defender Raju Gaikwad opened the door for a Mohun Bagan comeback as Chidi pulled one back. Chidi and strike partner Muritala Ali were troubling the young Arrows defence in the second half with the latter scoring twice to make it 4-3. But Jeje ensured the points for Arrows by completing his hattrick late on. Muritala also got his hattrick in injury time but it was Arrows who edged the match by the odd goal of the nine.
HAL 4-6 Pune FC (April 10, 2012)
Rock-bottom HAL had very little to cheer about in the 2011-12 season, and this ten-goal goal-fest saw them get officially relegated despite scoring four goals, with Nepal wingback Rohit Chand scoring a hattrick. Chand put hosts HAL in front in Bangalore in the very first minute, but by the end of the first period his side was down 4-1 as Pune FC’s Subhash Singh, Douhou Pierre and Mandjou Keita (twice) made the most of some poor defending. Subhas got his second after the interval as Pune were cruising at 5-1 with HAL looking set to go down in embarrassing fashion. But Jagaba Hamza made it 5-2 before Chand took over and scored twice more to make it 5-4. Chand became only the second Asian foreigner to score a hattrick in the I-League after Tolgay Ozbey and ensured a nervy finish for Pune FC with four minutes plus added time remaining. But HAL couldn’t complete the comeback as Pune substitute Maninder Singh made it 6-4, as the Bangalore outfit went down to the second division after playing their part in one of the most entertaining games in I-League history.