Mohun Bagan’s Farewell I-League Season: An Affair to Remember
Mohun Bagan beat Aizawl FC 1-0 at the Kalyani Stadium on 10 March to be crowned I-League champions.
For Mohun Bagan, life (read league) has come full circle this season. The Mariners had started their season with an ugly goalless draw against the Aizawl FC away from home and it was against the same opponent on Tuesday (10 March) the Kolkata giants, playing at home, bagged their fifth I-League title with four games still in hand.
Mohun Bagan beat Aizawl FC 1-0 at the Kalyani stadium to be crowned champions in their farewell I-League season. Their Senegalese striker Papa Babacar Diawara scored the only goal in the match to confirm the three points, to ring in celebrations in the Green and Maroon camp.
For Mohun Bagan we can safely assume that it has been a near perfect season so far. They have had a 14-match unbeaten run this season till now and are safely placed at the top of the league, with 39 points from 16 matches. Real Kashmir are the next best with 24 points from 17 matches.
With this title win, Mohun Bagan now equal Dempo’s record of five national league titles. But this would be the first time that they won the league with a foreign coach – Spanish Kibu Vicuna.
Earlier titles were won by TK Chathunni of Kerala in 1998, followed by Subroto Bhattacharya in 2000 and 2002, before Sanjoy Sen pulled off a coup in 2015.
The Dream Run
But it wasn’t all rosy for Vicuna and his boys. They started their campaign with a draw against Aizawl FC and a 2-4 loss against Churchill Brothers at home. With only a single point from the first two matches, Mohun Bagan has come a long way this season to pocket the league with four rounds to spare.
Things started changing for the Green and Maroon Brigade with the advent of the new year. But, in December 2019 itself, they made their wisest move by confirming the services of Senegalese strike Papa Babacar Diawara aka Baba.
Mohun Bagan had already returned to winning ways with victories against debutants TRAU FC of Manipur and Gokulam FC from Kerala. But the match that changed the face of their entire campaign was against Real Kashmir FC in Srinagar.
It is never easy to play in Srinagar, especially during the winters, but Bagan not only put up a spirited show but took the hosts down 2-0. And thus started Mohun Bagan’s swansong this season.
Despite adversities and high-pressure matches, Vicuna operated the Green and Maroon brigade like a well-oiled machinery to continue their dominant and unbeaten run.
Mohun Bagan managed a draw against Punjab FC in an away game. They blanked former I-Champions NEROCA FC 3-0 in their own backyard. In the return fixture, they subjected the Manipuri side to a humiliation of 6-2.
The side also notched up comprehensive away victories against defending champions Chennai City FC and returned favour to Churchill Brothers with a 3-0 win away from home.
But the highlight of the Churchill match was Mohun Bagan’s magical 23-pass goal.
The unbeaten run also included Mohun Bagan’s 2-1 win against East Bengal in the first leg. Baba & Co were in complete control of the match, taking 2-0 lead in the first half itself. Rivals East Bengal did make a comeback in the last 20 minutes of the match but Mohun Bagan showed character to take home the three points.
Mohun Bagan’s unbeaten run coincided with the big news of them merging with ATK, to play in the Indian Super League next season. It was just before the derby, but Vicuna and his boys were successful in keeping away distractions and getting the desired results.
Architects of Success
One of the reasons for their success has been the foreigner duo of Fran Javier Gonzalez Munoz and Diawara. The pair has been the architect of Mohun Bagan’s victories, sharing 20 goals among themselves.
Apart from these two, the other two foreigners Joseba Beitia in the midfield and Fran Morante at the back have also fared well to justify the faith shown in the foreign recruits by the club.
Meanwhile, the Mohun Bagan management should also be lauded for the trust they should in Vicuna. Despite missing out on Calcutta League, Durand Cup, the Mohun Bagan unit continued with the Spanish coach and it bore then results. Not to forget the fact that Vicuna also had the freedom to choose his own men.
And the Spaniard didn’t disappoint. His chose the right person for the right job and made sure he got the services of the foreigners in areas where the Indian footballers lacked.
Meanwhile, Nongdamba Naorem, Ashutosh Mehta and Suhair kept the Indian flag flying high in the side.
With their attractive and fresh brand of football, Mohun Bagan were the side to beat in the competition. But they shouldn’t let the guard down yet. With the second leg of the derby this weekend and then three matches still to go, the grand old club of India would like to continue the winning run and make their farewell season in the I-League also the most memorable one.
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