I-League Round 15: Five Talking Points

Tuesday, 11 April 2017|Sunil A. Markal

We got a further clearer view in the race for the 10th I-League title, as well as in the tussle to avoid the relegation. Here are the five talking points from the consummated 15th round of the Hero I-League.

1. East Bengal blow up their final chance

It would not have been a fitting end to their campaign. East Bengal winning the derby and surging at the top of the table by leapfrogging their arch rivals Mohun Bagan to bag their first ever I-League title. But sadly for the team and supporters alike, Trevor Morgan’s side bottled their final opportunity, continuing the pattern which has been visible in the past seasons. To make matters worse, East Bengal could finish 3rdin the table, after being firm title favorites for the large chunks of the season. Sunday was a real test of character and mettle of Morgan and his side, but unfortunately, they failed the acid test, bringing end to yet another disappointing league campaign.

2. Mohun Bagan’s resilience and hard work showing off

Om Sunday, Mohun Bagan not only secured the bragging rights with a win over fierce rivals East Bengal, but also mounted their own challenge as title contenders. The win came back of a 3-0 home thumping of holders Bengaluru FC, and by pipping the big two in back-to-back games, the Mariners have put themselves in a position of real promise. When Sanjoy Sen was quizzed about their AFC Cup aspirations before their first continental game this season, the head coach had insisted that his side is still in hunt for the title, and that seems to be coming off well. With Sen’s charges just one point adrift of the top with two more games in hand compared to table-topping Aizawl FC’s one, Mohun Bagan are in the driving seat to land the title; their second in three years.

3. Bengaluru FC register much needed win

It’s been long since I-League has been a lost cause for Bengaluru FC. But that was not going to stop them from fighting for their pride. And on Saturday, they proved exactly the same. With old foe Khalid Jamil in town, there was no way the Blues were conceding to his flying Aizawl FC side. Marjan Jugovic’s stoppage time might have dented the away sides’ title dreams, but more importantly secured three vital points for Albert Roca’s side. This win should bestow some much-needed boost and spirit in the Blues who play crucial games in the AFC Cup. Meanwhile, finishing fourth might just prove to be important for Bengaluru FC. If reports are to be believed, the teams finishing 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th will be pitted in one group in the Federation Cup, meaning the likes of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal will face off each other, while the Blues ending up 5th would mean they join the aforementioned big two in a group of death. The win on Saturday takes Bengaluru FC two points within the reach of 4th placed Shillong Lajong having played an extra game. By winning their final game against Thangboi Singto’s side, Roca’s side can usurp the Reds and finish fourth, avoiding a critical scenario in the Fed Cup.

4. Relegation six pointer disappoints

Mumbai FC’s fate was decided even before Saturday. They will be plying their trade in the 2nd Division next season; or maybe worse, the club might be shut down. Despite all this, Oscar Bruzon’s side was expected to turn up for the final few games to restore their lost pride, but it ended in a drab 0-0 draw, summing up Mumbai’s demise. Churchill Brothers, who have been in resurging form of late, upsetting the two Kolkata giants, looked satisfied with a draw having confirmed their participation in the next edition of the I-League.

5. Blame game could further deteriorate East Bengal’s image

As if the disappointing derby defeat was not enough for East Bengal, off-field issues have gathered dark clouds over the Red and Gold Brigade. Gaffer Trevor Morgan hinted at leaving the club after the defeat against Mohun Bagan, insisting he has no idea about his immediate future. This refuted by East Bengal official Debabrata Sarkar, while Secretary Kalyan Mazumdar raised questions over Morgan’s man management skills. Furthermore, East Bengal captain Mehtab Hossain incensed by the performances of his foreign teammates, and questioned their dedication towards the team. If anything, the blame game is tarnishing the clubs’ image.