It was on a pleasant evening way back on November 9 that Samson Singh scored an 85th minute winner to hand Air-India a narrow win against JCT Phagwara at Cooperage. A lot has changed both on and off the field in the following three months after that 1-0 result,but the airmen are still looking for their next win in the second edition of the ONGC I-league.
And after finding themselves as the top Mumbai outfit in the league table at No. 4 at one stage earlier in the season,Air-India have fallen down to the eighth spot as they prepare to combat defending champions Dempo at home on Friday.
While fellow Mumbai teams Mumbai FC and Mahindra United have made amends in the second phase of the league,Bimal Ghoshs team have struggled to even manage draws,and are currently on a three-match losing streak.
Air-India struck first against Mohun Bagan at Cooperage,only for Jose Barreto to put on a magical display of skill and take the game away from the home side.
Ghosh insisted that the refereeing in most games that his team had been involved in this season were of a very poor standard,and had played a huge part in their dwindling fortunes. We havent played to our best either but some of the decisions have gone clearly against us,which at this level is unpardonable, he said. Ghosh noted that another serious issue that had affected Air-India were the various offers that a number of his players had received from other teams.
I am not blaming the players for it. But it obviously ends up being a huge distraction for them and their commitment towards the teams cause also starts diminishing, said the veteran coach.
And things werent getting any better,he quipped,as Air-India will go into the match against the Goan giants plagued with a number of injuries and cards.
Chukwuma Odafia,Emmanuel Ovieghara,Samson Singh,Napoleon Singh,Vijith Shetty,Soccor Velho and Syed Farid are some of the big names that Ghosh will be forced to do without in the line-up.
But what it does do is give me a chance to test our reserve bench in an important match, he said,while adding with a snicker that whenever he had tried his second-string side,they had ended up being successful.
Dempo themselves havent enjoyed their brightest season so far,and were also poor starters once the league restarted after the break. But with a huge morale-boosting 3-0 win against in-form Mumbai FC in their last game,they will simply add to the ever-growing number of problems that Ghosh and his boys have been faced with of late.