I-League marks on 10: Aizawl thrill; Mumbai FC disappoint

It was an eventful week in the I-League with the third and fourth round of matches seeing some winning streaks continue, some come to an end, and a few teams slipping up. Here's ESPN's ratings of the teams for the entire week gone by, and also some of the top performances by teams and individuals.

Aizawl FC - 9/10

Aizawl FC continue to impress, and there's a sense of determination that has been evident since their first game away to East Bengal. This past week saw them register wins against Shillong Lajong in the season's first north-east derby in Aizawl, and then travel to Mumbai FC and notch up an impressive 1-0 win. As a team they are difficult to break down, and the inclusion of Syrian international Mahmoud Al Amna in midfield has added a new dimension to their attack. Al Amna scored his first goal in Aizawl colours against Mumbai FC, and he makes the team a dangerous opponent for potential title-contenders this season.

Mohun Bagan - 8/10

Mohun Bagan would have scored more in the ratings, but for a tepid outing against Chennai City FC, in a week where their other match saw them coast to a 4-0 win over the other debutant side Minerva Punjab. The score line in Chennai could have been different but for a good performance in goal by Debjit Majumder, as Chennai repeatedly sent defence-splitting passes that must be a source of concern for coach Sanjoy Sen. The team still has the ability to score at will, but this league is often decided by outcomes in matches involving the heavyweight teams, and it must be mentioned that Mohun Bagan have had the easiest four games to begin their campaign. Their title credentials will be known once they face teams in the top half of the table, even though they currently lead.

East Bengal - 8/10

East Bengal aren't playing at their best yet, but they are getting the results ever since a fortuitous 1-1 draw in the opening round at home against Aizawl FC. Their mid-week clash against Churchill Brothers saw them race to a 2-0 lead at half-time, which they held on to for the rest of the match, and then came a strong come-from-behind win over champions Bengaluru FC. The foreign players, forward Willis Plaza, midfielder Wedson Anselme and defender Ivan Bukenya are pulling their weights well, with Bukenya also chipping in with goals, including a crucial one against Bengaluru FC. AFC player Ildar Amirov is yet to acclimatise to Indian conditions, and has thus been restricted to short appearances, first as a substitute and then starting. The team is converting set-pieces well, and that makes them capable of getting results in the most adverse of situations, as they showed against Bengaluru.

Bengaluru FC - 7/10

Bengaluru FC were ruthless in putting Mumbai FC away thanks to CK Vineeth's hat-trick, the first ever in competitive football by a BFC player. The weekend saw them concede their first goals, as also their first defeat of the campaign, in their first away match. Vineeth scored all four of their goals, but there were some errors in the second half against East Bengal, which allowed former Bengaluru FC striker Robin Singh to open his account for the season with a timely winner. Tempers also flared in the match in Barasat, and discipline is something the champions will have to make sure they shore up on, since their tactics of retaining ball possession will make be difficult to execute if they happen to get a key player sent off.

DSK Shivajians - 7/10

DSK Shivajians impressed after two back-to-back losses on their opening two games. They would be disappointed that their efforts didn't result in two home wins, but a loss in concentration late in the match against Churchill Brothers cost them two points. Kim Song Yong is beginning to have a big influence in the attacking third, and that is something coach Dave Rogers can feed off. The key factor will be replicating this form outside Pune, and for that Indian players like Sanju Pradhan, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Jerry Lalrinzuala will have to start contributing more substantially in attack.

Shillong Lajong - 6/10

Shillong Lajong started the week with a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Aizawl FC, handing their north-east rivals their first win in the third I-League derby between the two sides. There was a late goal, though, by Yuta Kinowaki, that spurred the team on to give their best performance at home against Minerva Punjab. The 2-1 win was the first of five matches they will be playing in Shillong, and the fact that Aser Dipanda also scored his first goal for his new team will please head coach Thangboi Singto.

Churchill Brothers - 5/10

The ratings would be higher if one looked at just the last 135 minutes of the league played by Churchill Brothers. After being outplayed by East Bengal in the first half at home in mid-week, the former champions showed a stomach for a fight in the second 45 minutes of the game. They then repeated a similar performance away to DSK Shivajians, conceding a first-half goal, but earning their first points at the death through a clever header by Adil Ahmed Khan. The midfield is industrious, but there are far too many poor touches and low retention of possession to frighten good opposition. The defence also has been guilty of some lapses in communication, though goalkeeper Priyant Kumar Singh has been one of their best players with his acrobatic saves and good decision-making.

Chennai City - 5/10

Chennai City were poor against DSK Shivajians, especially with their biggest contributor of the season Karanjit Singh missing due to injury. The India international goalkeeper returned against Mohun Bagan, and it was his first-half display that energised the team to give their best performance yet. There were several good collections, important interceptions and even a saved penalty against Sony Norde that kept Chennai in the game. Marcos Tank would give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the second half, but then the Chennai defence crumbled under the constant influence of Norde down the left flank of Mohun Bagan, leaving the I-League newcomers still seeking their first win of their campaign.

Mumbai FC - 4/10

Easily the most disappointing fall from the high of the first two rounds came for Santosh Kashyap's Mumbai FC. That they would find the going tough against both Bengaluru FC as well as Aizawl FC was never in doubt, but the manner of their performance in Bengaluru particularly belied all the euphoria around the performance in their first two matches. Victorino Fernandes by himself will find the going tough against organised defences of the league, and the team must also shore up their own defence to stop leaking goals like they did against Bengaluru.

Minerva Punjab - 4/10

Minerva Punjab are finding the going difficult this season, and part of the reason has been the absence of quality and experience in the middle of the pitch. In India Under-19 international Anirudh Thapa, they have an exciting prospect moving forward, but the supply to him and to AFC player Ivan Filatov has been poor. In defence, coach Surinder Singh is yet to zero in on his best back-four combination, and the injury to first-choice goalkeeper Ravi Kumar in the second match of the season in Aizawl has been pivotal, as the team has conceded all of its seven goals in his absence. Nigerian defender Loveday Okechukwu did get them their first league goal over the weekend, though, and this team can pick itself up from here with that inspiration.

Biggest movers of the week: Aizawl FC's two wins have now put them in joint-second place alongside East Bengal, as also one of only three teams yet to be defeated this season. That in itself is a great start for a team that was originally meant to be missing from this league due to relegation.

Best goal of the week: Sony Norde's winner for Mohun Bagan against Chennai City must be counted as the goal of the week for the calm finish by the Haitian. Played in from midfield, it was a speedy run down the centre that brought him face-to-face with the onrushing Karanjit Singh, who had denied him in the first half off the penalty spot. This time Norde kept his cool and sent a low shot where Karanjit might have expected him to try and chip. It maintained Bagan's perfect start to the season.

Player of the week: CK Vineeth has carried into the I-League season the goal-scoring form that saw him finish 2016 on a high for his teams in both the AFC Cup and the Indian Super League (ISL). He was the most influential player of the week gone by, scoring all of Bengaluru's four goals, including the league's first hat trick this year.

Top tactic of the week: For sheer ruthlessness, it must be Albert Roca's instruction to Bengaluru FC to press harder on Mumbai FC in the second half after leading 1-0 at half-time. The champions had till then allowed the visitors to play with some space, but early in the second half, there was relentless pressure on all ball-carriers from Mumbai, which led to mistakes in possession and openings for Bengaluru. They would establish a comfortable 3-0 lead thanks to the high pressing.