I-League roundup: East Bengal start with a comeback win while Mumbai FC and Shillong Lajong draw
A Ranti Martins brace lit up the Fatorda stadium in Goa, while Shillong's Nehru stadium witnessed a goalless draw
The opening round of the 2015/16 I-League concluded with 8 out of the 9 teams playing, as Goa and Shillong hosted a game each today. East Bengal underlined their status as favourites for the I-League with a 3-1 win away to Sporting Clube de Goa, while Shillong Lajong and Mumbai FC began their campaign on a dour note, playing out a goalless draw.
Sporting Goa 1-3 East Bengal
Sporting Clube de Goa and East Bengal kicked off their respective I-League campaigns in the Fatorda stadium in Goa, with Sporting starting the better of the two sides in the opening exchanges. However, it was East Bengal with the first clear chance of note, after Sehnaj Singh was set up in the 19th minute after lovely play from vibrant I-League debutant Do Dung-Hyun and Bikash Jairu on the wings.
Sporting were the ones to open the scoring though, as the Goans went ahead in the 29th minute. Odafa profited from a lovely through ball by Pratesh Shirodkar, and managed to evade the attentions of Arnab Mondal and score, rolling back the years as the Nigerian calmly gave the Goans the lead.
Odafa had a good chance to double Sporting’s lead with a header as the half wore on, but failed to, which meant Sporting went into the break with a 1-0 lead over East Bengal. The Red & Gold brigade made Sporting regret their profligacy as they managed to equalise midway in the second half, as Ranti Martins rose majestically to head home a cross from the excellent Do Dung-Hyun in the 67th minute.
The two sides traded chances as the game became strectched, but East Bengal were the ones to convert their chance and take the lead in the 78th minute. Ranti Martins found Jairu in space on the left wing, and the winger responded with aplomb, thundering the ball home with his left foot to give his side a valuable lead.
Ranti Martins made the points safe minutes later with a goal all of his own making, the striker held off Jose Clemente and turned away from the Sporting defender, allowing him to slot the ball home and give East Bengal a 3-1 lead in the 81st minute. Odafa had a late chance to reduce the deficit, but East Bengal held on for the three points as the final whistle blew.
Shillong Lajong 0-0 Mumbai FC
The Nehru stadium played host as the two sides kicked off their I-League campaign with a goalless draw. However, the game got off to an exciting start right from the off, as Lajong’s Nigerian midfielder Penn Orji had a shot that went narrowly wide in the opening minute.
Lajong dominated the opening stages with Mumbai failing to settle, however the visitors had their first shot on target in the 9th minutes, as Eric Brown’s thunderbolt of a shot went narrowly wide, with the Lajong keeper well beaten. The Reds did wrestle back control however, as they dominated the first half proceedings.
Lajong’s Brazilian signings Fabio Pena and Uilliams had wonderful chances to give their side the lead midway in the first half, but failed to convert. Mumbai nearly capitalised against the run of play in the 37th minute, as Arata Izumi and Sushil Singh drew a wonderful double save from Lajong keeper Vishal Kaith. As the referee called time on the first half, the hosts were disappointed to go into the break without taking the lead.
The second half was a relatively sedate affair compared to the first, with a Pena header in the 51st minute and a Uilliams free kick in the 76th minute being the only chances of note. As the two sides tired in the latter stages, no clear cut opportunity was created, which meant that both sides notched up their first I-League point of the season as the final whistle blew.