I-League marks on 10: Mumbai, Aizawl impress; Churchill Brothers disappoint

The I-League's second weekend saw all teams in action, with some results as expected while the newcomers continued to struggle. Debayan Sen assesses all the action.

Mumbai FC - 9/10

Coach Santosh Kashyap fielded an all-Indian starting lineup for their away game against Churchill Brothers, and the team responded with the most complete performance by any team so far this season. Pratik Chowdhary gave away a free-kick early on, which Churchill Brothers scored from, but the visitors never panicked and there always seemed to be only one likely winner in the contest. Victorino Fernandes and Karan Sawhney provided the goals for Kashyap's team, and they even had a missed Sawhney penalty in a workmanlike performance, characterised by high pressing, interchanging positions of players and a strong work ethic by each of the 14 Mumbai players, even those who played for just a minute.

Aizawl - 8/10

Khalid Jamil's Aizawl FC continued building on a positive start in the opening round with their first win in their first home game of the season. The attacking trio of Albert Zohmingmawia, Kamo Bayi and Jayesh Rane showed great understanding and co-ordination, and Liberian Alfred Jaryan pulled the strings in midfield admirably for them. Syrian international and former Sporting Clube de Goa midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna made an immediate impact, with defence-splitting passes coming from him all through the game. The goal also came off a low corner delivered by Al Amna, and the only blip in the Aizawl performance on the day was some indecision by goalkeeper Albino Gomes when faced with the prospect of dealing with corners and crosses.

Mohun Bagan - 8/10

Mohun Bagan continue to impress, with their first match at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium bringing a brace of goals for Darryl Duffy. Bagan's defence has been the highlight of their performance thus far, with the likes of Anas Edathodika and Kinshuk Debnath providing enough solidity, which has enabled wing-backs like Pritam Kotal ample opportunity to move forward. AIFF Player of the Year Jeje Lalpekhlua only came on as a substitute in the 87th minute, and with the possibility of him joining the attack, it can only get better for the 2015 champions.

Bengaluru FC - 8/10

Another strong performance from the champions has meant they have matched Mohun Bagan in picking up wins in their first two home games, with both clubs the only teams yet to concede any goal. Coach Albert Roca fielded nearly the same eleven that won 3-0 against Shillong Lajong in the opening round, with Mandar Rao Desai stepping in for the indisposed Cameron Watson. The goals took a while coming, though the fact that they came off substitutes CK Vineeth and new recruit Roby Norales would please Roca. Sunil Chhetri's goal-drought continues, though, and the top-scorer for India has now not scored in competitive football since October's AFC Cup semi-final.

East Bengal - 8/10

This was a performance East Bengal would take great heart from, especially because the goals came from Wedson Anselme and Willis Plaza, thus completing a sequence of goals from their three new and untested foreign recruits for the season. Robin Singh came on as a substitute on the hour-mark and helped set up Plaza's winner, which also made East Bengal the first team to win an away game this year. The three-time national champions have also signed Kyrgyzstan international Ildar Amirov as their AFC player for the league, and the striker will bring his experience of having played in Thailand and Turkey besides his country of birth into sharpening the attacking line for coach Trevor Morgan.

Churchill Brothers - 5/10

Churchill Brothers were playing their first home game in the I-League in three years, and the locals would have been enthused by the perfect start, Brandon Fernandes converting a free-kick in the 4th minute into their first goal of this season. For the rest of the game, though, there were too many errors by the hosts. Midfielders were losing possession softly and most of the 50-50 tackles were being won by Mumbai FC as well. Priyant Singh had a decent outing in goal, but could do little when Victorino Fernandes capitalised on a feeble back-pass from defence. Anthony Wolfe cut a sorry figure up front for the former champions, who will need more consistency to pick up their first points of the league.

Minerva Punjab - 5/10

Minerva Punjab put in a game fight in the altitude of the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl and owed much of their solidity in the early part of the game to goalkeeper Ravi Kumar. Nigerian defender Loveday Okechukwu was solid too, and there were some exciting moments created up front when midfielder Victor Amobi picked the ball up and played himself wide into the wings. Minerva's starting strikers Manandeep Singh and Joel Sunday were disappointing, though, and they only seemed to threaten once Uttam Rai was brought on for the former.

Chennai City - 4/10

Chennai City did well to keep Bengaluru FC at bay for the first 75 minutes of a tough southern derby at the Kanteerava Stadium, but then found themselves down by two goals in a span of the next four minutes. It was never going to be easy for the visitors to score, and the lack of impact by Brazilians Marcos and Charles would be worrisome for a team yet to notch up their first I-League goal. They were a touch unfortunate when a Harmanjot Khabra elbow to one of their players with the match still scoreless was only given a yellow for the Bengaluru defender. If the hosts had gone a man down at that stage, Chennai may have had a chance of coming away with something, perhaps even a win.

Shillong Lajong - 4/10

Shillong Lajong are finding the going difficult in the early stages of the I-League. It hasn't helped that they have begun with two matches away to the last two champions of the league, but their biggest weakness from the previous year -- that of finding goals -- continues in 2017. Coach Thangboi Singto started Cameroonian striker Aser Dipanda for the first time, but they were unable to find their first goal of the campaign. Vishal Kaith has been good in goal for them, but they will need more from the players up front in order to make an impression on the league.

DSK Shivajians - 4/10

DSK Shivajians picked up the first goal of their campaign in their first match at the comfort of the Balewadi Sports Complex, but little else went right for them. It began poorly against East Bengal with Soram Poirei conceding a penalty, a yellow card and a goal inside the first quarter of an hour and it rarely got better. Gouramangi Singh may have pulled a goal back, but Shivajians are yet to see the kind of impact they would have wanted from the likes of Lallianzuala Chhangte or Holicharan Narzary. Coach Dave Rogers has also been reluctant to use the services of Jerry Lalrinzuala as a starter, which has been hard to explain.