I-League: How costly will Justin, Nestor's absence be for title-chasing Chennai City, East Bengal

Chennai City FC's Nestor Jesus Gordillo is suspended for an accumulation of four yellow cards, while East Bengal's Jobby Justin has been handed a six-match ban for spitting on Aizawl FC's Kareem Nurain.

Jobby Justin is East Bengal's top-scorer with nine league goals.   -  AIFF MEDIA

The title race for the current edition of the I-League has been keeping the fans in Kolkata and Chennai at tenterhooks. Chennai City FC, the new phenomenon in Indian Football and the current I-League leader, plays the defending champion Minerva Punjab FC at its home in Coimbatore looking for the win that will secure it the crown.

Barely a couple of hundred kilometres away in the coastal city of Kozhikode, visitor and second-placed East Bengal will be striving for a similar goal against the host Gokulam Kerala FC while hoping that Chennai City draws or loses its match allowing it to usurp the crown. While both the sides are united in their motives to secure a win, they have similar agony of missing a key player in the attack in their sides.

Chennai City FC misses Spanish winger Nestor Gordillo, while East Bengal will have to do without its hard-working attacker Jobby Justin in the eleven. Gordillo misses the match for having accumulated four bookings, the last of which came in the team’s previous outing against Churchill Brothers. Justin’s penalty is more severe, having been handed a six-match suspension by the All India Football Federation’s disciplinary committee for spitting on the Aizawl FC defender Kareem Nurain in a home match at Kolkata on February 25. Nurain has also received a similar punishment for participating in the ugly on-field incident but Justin’s suspension is hurting East Bengal the most.

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For the aspiring champion Chennai City, which has a point’s advantage over East Bengal, the absence of Gordillo is definitely big as the Spaniard formed a very effective combination in the creative zone with his compatriot Sandro Rodriguez.

Gordillo contributed in a big way in the “Spanish Armada” that has been winning battles for Chennai City since the start of the tournament. Of the 45 goals that the current leader has scored, the Spanish combination of Pedro Manzi – the striker – Rodriguez and Gordillo have together tallied 37 goals, with Manzi alone scoring 20.

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Nestor Jesus (centre) of Chennai City Football Club has scored eight goals this season.   -  S. Siva Saravanan

 

Gordillo was responsible in channelising the attacks through the flanks while liaising with Manzi, who did the finishing act in the box. It's of no surprise that Gordillo made nine assists so far while scoring eight goals to be the key contributor in Chennai City’s offensive plans.

His absence will be setting Chennai City coach Akbar Nawas in deep thoughts as he tries to find a capable replacement for Gordillo. There are not many available in the roster and Nawas may opt to field the Slovak midfielder Jozef Kaplan, who so far has had an ordinary outing.

Justin currently leads the goal-scoring chart as the highest Indian goal-scorer with nine goals and is the joint-topper in the side with the Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda.

The latter’s job became easier as Justin lent dynamism to the East Bengal attack by adopting a free role in the attacking third. His sudden bursts of speed had the potential of upsetting the defensive array of any side and created decisive openings in the opposition back-line that resulted in a goal more often than not.

East Bengal’s Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia will have his task cut out to find out the replacement which may in the form of the Spaniard Jaime Santos.

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