Babacar Diawara produced a spectacular strike in the 80th minute to ensure the crowning glory moment for Mohun Bagan, which beat Aizawl FC by a solitary goal at the Kalyani Stadium on Tuesday to lift the I-League title.
With the match looking to lapse into a tame draw, Diawara’s late goal ensured the required three points that took Mohun Bagan’s tally to an unassailable 39 points from 16 matches.
Mohun Bagan attained the summit finish with four rounds to spare and matched the record so far owned by Dempo SC, which accomplished a similar feat in 2009-2010 season. If the NFL and I-League (which is a later nomenclature given to the country’s top League) are considered in entirety, then Mohun Bagan also equalled Dempo SC in winning five titles. Dempo has three I-League and two NFL crowns while Mohun Bagan collected its second I-League title to add to the three NFL titles it had won previously.
Mohun Bagan, which will be playing the Indian Super League (ISL) next season after being acquired by ATK this year, thus made its last I-League appearance memorable one.
The first half ended goalless with neither team showing enough attacking intent. The possession-based football that Mohun Bagan had mastered under its Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna this season was largely absent as the host lacked the initiative to break into the opposition defence.
Full Points table|
On the other hand, Aizawl did a fairly good job in defence by employing two towering centre-backs – Ghanaian Joseph Adjei and Ugandan Juuko Richard – whose strong physical presence became a big challenge for the Mohun Bagan attackers.
The Aizawl outfit, coached by experienced Stanly Rozario, played the right game with regular counter attacks that detained the host from going all out.
The home side created a fine chance in the last minute of the opening half when Diawara released Tajikistan winger Komron Tursunov, who was unmarked inside the box. The latter failed to keep his attempt on target, setting the host in search of the all important goal after the interval.
Mohun Bagan continued to struggle in the second half, seeing most of its attacks falling flat before the Aizawl box.
After a number of failed opportunities, emerging especially from set-piece situations, Joseba Beitia, the Bagan play-maker, managed to create the opening that was finished brilliantly by Diawara.
The strike took the Senegalese star's tally to 10 goals in 12 matches, making him Bagan's joint top-scorer, alongside Fran Gonzalez.
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