Chennai City FC win their first-ever I-League championship with a 3-1 win over defending champions Minerva Punjab FC. East Bengal’s 2-1 over Gokulam Kerala saw them finish a point behind the league winners.
Bora, Bora leads Chennai to paradise
FULL TIME: Chennai City FC 3-1 Minerva Punjab FC
CHENNAI CITY: Pedro Manzi (56′ [P]); Gaurav Bora (69′), (90’+3′); MINERVA PUNJAB: Roland Bilal (3′)
At the final whistle, Akbar Nawas fell to his knees, while the Chennai City players and staff members wheeled away in celebration. 20-year old Gaurav Bora could barely hold back his tears at the presentation. It was his brace which confirmed the three points for the new champions.
Last year on March 2nd, 2018 Chennai beat Minerva 2-1 at Chennai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to avoid relegation. A little over a year later, Chennai beat the defending champions at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium – Coimbatore – to be crowned the new I-League champions.
It wasn’t going according to plan at the half time whistle. Roland Bilal had given Minerva an early lead as the champions elect were looking nervously over their shoulders. The Gokulam-East Bengal match was deadlocked at 0-0. Both teams tied at 40 points.
11 minutes after the resumption of play the scenario looked brighter. Chennai was handed a penalty courtesy a handball by Akashdeep Singh. Pedro Manzi stepped up to score his 21st goal of the campaign.
13 minutes later, Gaurav Bora made it 2-1 with a calm finish off a corner. At the other match, Gokulam went ahead exactly at the same time. 15 minutes later, East Bengal was 2-1 ahead and the title hung on a balance. A goal by Minerva would hand the title to East Bengal, but Chennai’s unlikely hero, Bora, struck his second goal of the match in injury time to secure the title.
After the final whistle tears were shed, hugs were shared. Nawas was hoisted into the air. Chennai City’s adopted home Coimbatore cheered on their adopted sons.
In the end, the players from the lower divisions of Spain did it. The players from Chennai’s Senior Division League did it. At the start of the season, Pedro Manzi said: “I want to help the team win the league this year.”
Of course, he did it.
East Bengal win, but lose out
FULL TIME: Gokulam Kerala FC 1-2 East Bengal FC
GOKULAM KERALA: Marcus Joseph (69′); EAST BENGAL: Jamie Colado (79′ [P]), Danmawia Ralte (85′)
East Bengal hasn’t won the I-League or the National Football League since 2004. They have won three titles in the 99 years of their existence. The equation was simple: win the match and hope Chennai slip up.
The first half finished goalless, but Chennai was a goal down. It was possible. However, in the 69th minute, Marcus Joseph beat Dagar all ends up and East Bengal’s fourth league title looked unlikely. To make matters worse, Chennai were 2-1 up.
The Red & Golds upped the tempo and 10 minutes later Jamie Santos Colado restored parity off a penalty. In the 85th minute Danmawia the team ahead. 2-1 and maybe, just maybe, Minerva could do them a favor.
Minutes before the final whistle it was all over. Chennai scored a third and East Bengal had to contend with second place. Separated by a solitary point, but history belongs to the winners.
Mohun Bagan leave it late to beat Lajong
FULL TIME: Shillong Lajong FC 2-3 Mohun Bagan AC
SHILLONG LAJONG: Phrangki Buam (45’ [P], 53’′); MOHUN BAGAN: Dipanda Dicka (4′ [P]), Sony Norde (78′), PM Britto (88’)
Shillong Lajong bowed out of the I-League after an entertaining match against Mohun Bagan at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The visitors draw first blood through former Shillong forward Dipanda Dicka in the 4th minute through a penalty kick. A miscommunication between Aiban and Phurba Lachempa resulted in the latter fouling Dicka.
The hosts hit the woodwork and continued playing attacking football. They were rewarded in injury time when a foul by Arijit Bagui on Phrangki Buam earned the penalty for the hosts. Like Dicka, Buam stepped up and scored the penalty he earned. 1-1 at the break.
Upon resumption, Buam scored the second of the match in the 53rd minute. The young forward finishing off a beautiful pass from Donboklang to put the ball past Shankar Roy. The Kolkata giants restored parity in the 78th minute courtesy a Sony Norde freekick. The Haitian showing his class to beat Lachempa all ends up.
However, in the 88th minute, Mohun Bagan found their way when Britto scored in the 88th minute on a rebound that was a result of a good save by Phurba Lachempa from a Dipanda Dicka attempt taking the scoreline to 2-3 in the Mariners’ favor.
Mohun Bagan finished their 2019 season at the fifth place with 29 points to their kitty. As for Lajong, it remains to be seen what will happen to the first team from the northeast of India to make it to the I-League.
Plaza scores, but Aizawl go on to win
FULL TIME: Aizawl FC 2-1 Churchill Brothers FC
AIZAWL: Hussain Eldor (42′ [OG]), Ghenafo Kromah (87 [P])′; CHURCHILL BROTHERS: Willis Plaza (4′)
Aizawl finished off their season in style with a 2-1 win over Churchill Brothers at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl.
The visitors went ahead in the fourth minute, courtesy Willis Plaza (who else?) through a cross from Nicholas Fernandes. The Trinidadian scoring his 21st goal of the season.
Egged on by their home crowd, Aizawl equalized in the 42nd minute through an own goal from Hussain Eldor. A cross from Lalrinchhanna to Lalkhawpuimawia was hastily interrupted by Eldor, but rather than clearing the ball safely, it ended up straight into the goal.
Aizawl FC finally found their lead when Kromah made no mistake converting a penalty to hand Aizawl FC a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute.
Aizawl FC, with this win, finished their I-League campaign in the 7th place with 24 points while Churchill Brothers FC Goa finished their campaign in fourth with 34 points.
Danish brace helps Snow Leopards win at Imphal
FULL TIME: NEROCA FC 2-3 Real Kashmir FC
NEROCA: Danish Farooq (29′, 48′), Bazie Armand (57′); REAL KASHMIR: Subash Singh (18)′, Felix Chidi (90’+4′)
Danish Farooq scored a brace to enable Real Kashmir beat NEROCA FC 3-2 at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, Imphal.
In a display of attacking football NEROCA FC went ahead in the 18th minute when Subash Singh finished off a pass from Chencho.
Real Kashmir equalized through a pass from Surchandra Singh and Danish Farooq made no mistake in finding the back of the net in the 29th minute.
The second half saw Danish Farooq who score his second goal of the game in the 48th minute, the Snow Leopards went 3-1 ahead in the 57th minute when Bazie Armand headed it in giving the visitors.
The hosts scored a consolation in the added time through Felix Chidi. NEROCA FC finish their campaign in the sixth place with 26 points, while Real Kashmir FC finish in third position with 36 points on their debut season.