Mohun Bagan AC bid adieu to the I-League with a record-equalling second title win. A 1-0 win against Aizawl FC at the Kalyani Stadium, Kolkata put the Mariners 16 points ahead of their closest rivals.
The Mariners secured the title with four rounds to spare, matching Dempo SC’s feat in the 2009-2010 season. Mohun Bagan also equaled Dempo SC’s five NFL and I-League titles.
Kibu Vicuna’s team registered their eighth win on the trot and extended their unbeaten run in the league to 14 games. Mohun Bagan’s 39 points in 16 matches is the best points/game ratio in the history of the I-League.
Led by their Senegalese striker Papa Diawara and Spanish trio of Fran Gonzalez, Fran Morante, and Joseba Beitia, Mohun Bagan scored 35 goals.
Diawara scored his 10th of the season in the 80th minute to break Aizawl FC’s resistance. Receiving the through ball from Joseba Beitia, the forward slotted the ball into the bottom corner to spark wild celebrations among the Mohun Bagan faithful.
One last Kolkata Derby
The champions will not rest on their laurels as they face East Bengal in the return leg of the Kolkata Derby on Sunday, March 15th.
Having won the first leg 2-1 and the title in the pocket, the Mariners would aim to do the double over their arch-rivals – especially when East Bengal are celebrating their centenary year.
Tight race for second place
In the recent editions of the I-League, the title race went down to the wire. This time around the fight for second place is tight as ever as three points separate the second and the eighth-placed teams.
There is also an added incentive for finishing second if ATK win the ISL. With the recent merger between ATK and Mohun Bagan, Mohun Bagan will play in the ISL next season as ATK Mohun Bagan. If ATK win the ISL, they will compete in the AFC Cup playoffs next season and the I-League Winners’ AFC Cup slot is likely to go to the second placed team.
East Bengal and Punjab FC are locked in 23 points, Real Kashmir, TRAU, and Gokulam are on 22 points. Chennai City and Churchill Brothers are on 20 points.
At the bottom of the table, Aizawl (16 points) and NEROCA (18 points) are fighting tooth and nail to avoid relegation. Indian Arrows are at the bottom of the table with 9 points but are immune from relegation.
There is still a lot to play for in the league.