The final of Hero Federation Cup presents a classic case of an apprentice taking on a master when Aizawl FC makes its maiden final appearance against the owner of the most tiles Mohun Bagan, here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Saturday.
Jahar Das, the veteran coach who is at the helm of the young Aizawl side, harped on this aspect after the two sides completed the drills in preparation for the eventful clash. Aizwal, which has been relegated from the I-League where it made its debut this season, is poised at the threshold of history as the first team from Mizoram, more specifically from the North-East, to win the premier club tournament of the country.
The two clubs separated almost by a century — Mohun Bagan, the oldest club of Asia, was founded in 1889 and Aizawl in 1984 — have more differences especially when it comes to the tally of titles in their respective closets. Mohun Bagan, the winner of four NFL/I-League titles has won the Federation Cup the highest 13 times, while Aizawl has nothing to flaunt except for a tremendous passion for the sport. But what unifies the two on merit here is the proficiency in their performances in the tournament that brought the two face to face in the final.
Sanjoy Sen, the Mohun Bagan gaffer, picked on this point saying Aizawl has played outstanding football in the tournament and that makes the upcoming clash interesting. Mohun Bagan, which has scored 12 goals and conceded just two in the four matches it played in the two-leg quarterfinals and the semis, is more formidable on the count of competence.
Aizawl may not have been able to match its famous opponent in the number of goals scored, but what is keeping it motivated is the fact that the little known team beat the I-League champion Bengaluru FC twice — both at home and away — to reach the semis, where it got the better of Sporting Club de Goa.
What will be haunting Mohun Bagan will be the memory of the 1-2 loss against the same opponent (at Aizawl) on March 26 which dislodged it from the title race in the I-League while giving Bengaluru the scope to reclaim the title. Sen would be looking to keep his defence composed while whishing his formidable attack — comprising the foursome Haitian Sony Nordy and Japanese Katsumi Yusa on the flanks and India international Jeje Lalpekhlua and Trinidad and Tobago striker Cornell Glen in the middle — to keep firing the goals.
Mohun Bagan is free from injury and suspensions giving Sen the best attacking option while for Das his biggest worry will be missing the versatile captain David Lalrinmuana, who is suspended for the red card he received in the previous match against Sporting Clube. In absence of David, the onus will on the likes of midfielder Albert Zohmingmawia and Liberian forward Alfred Jaryan, who have been the other prominent names in an otherwise youthful Aizawl side that has showed the grit and the gumption to reach the summit.