I-League: Aizawl inches closer to historic title

Aizawl FC beat Mohun Bagan 1-0 in front of its faithful as it takes one more step in its quest for making history.

Heavy rainfall didn't affect the fighting spirit of both the teams.   -  Special Arrangement

Zohmingliana Ralte turned desperation into celebrations for Aizawl FC nodding home a late winner that helped the host overcome former champion Mohun Bagan 1-0 and take a giant step in realising the dream of winning the maiden I-League title. The 17th round match of the tournament here at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium saw a battle of attrition as the host weathered a flurry of Mohun Bagan attacks in the opening session before turning the tables on the traditional giant of Indian football with a nice performance in the second session. Aizawl FC now needs a draw against neighbouring rival Shillong Lajong FC in the concluding round to ensure the crown.


Mahmoud Al Amna, the Syrian midfielder who played the key role in turning the match in the Aizawl FC’s favour, liked his team’s spectacular emergence to the triumph of Leicester City, which came as a complete outsider to win the English Premier League last season (2015-16). Resurrected from relegation last year, Aizawl FC is surely scripting a similar story in Indian club football. Mohun Bagan, the 2015 I-League champion, was left ruing the missed opportunities in the first half, which could have given it a clear lead of at least two goals and the chance to go for its fifth NFL/I-League title.

The tiny state that treasures its passion for football went into wild celebrations as the referee blew the final whistle signalling the win that took their favourite team Aizawl FC three points clear of its challenger Mohun Bagan, to 36 points from 17 matches. Mohun Bagan remained on 33 points from 17 and can now only hope for an outside chance if Aizawl FC loses its last outing against Lajong FC.

Things could have been completely different if Darryl Duffy, Mohun Bagan’s Scottish striker, had scored a fourth minute opportunity where he had the Aizawl FC goalkeeper Albino Gomes at his mercy. Duffy, who was set up with the opportunity on top of the Aiawl box by a fine through-pass by Sony Norde, could only fire straight at onrushing Gomes instead of placing into an open goal. The early miss seemed to weigh heavily on the mind of the visitor, which just could not find the goal route despite getting two more chances later in the opening half. Duffy and his colleague upfront, Jeje Lalpekhlua, fluffed both the chances in the 10th and the 15th minutes to keep Mohun Bagan waiting.

With an incessant drizzle keeping company, the action was regularly interrupted by dense clouds that descended on the ground forcing the referee, Rahul Kumar Gupta, to stop the match briefly on three occasions. As Mohun Bagan retreated into a defensive shell after the interval apparently looking for a draw, Aizawl FC went for the kill and got rewarded in the 83rd minute when Zohmingliana Ralte jumped above the Mohun Bagan defence to nod home the corner taken by Jayesh Rane. MohunBagan could well have snatched an equaliser in three minutes into added-time but substitute Prabir Das gave a wrong direction to his attempted header when Norde reached him unmarked inside the Aizawl box with a fine cross.