The twilight of the 2017 I-League season is upon us. The dense smog around the future of the I-League title is now clearing as there remain three teams contending for India’s premier domestic football League which started back in January. Before we look at the fixtures of the three teams, let’s have a glance at the points table which is enough to indicate how the three teams are evenly poised at present.
|3||Kingfisher East Bengal||27||15||8||3||4||26||13||13|
The Mariners has looked in supreme form since the league resumed two weeks back. They humiliated the defending champions, Bengaluru FC beating them 3-0 at the Rabindra Sarobar on April 1st . Then they travelled to Siliguri to play the prestigious Kolkata derby in which they completely outplayed their arch rivals Kingfisher East Bengal 2-1 on April 9th.
After the derby they went to Shillong to continue their winning streak against Shillong Lajong FC on 12th April, but failed as the boys were seen quite complacent as is expected after a derby win. They were held to a 1-1 draw by the highlanders.Mohun Bagan’s Haitian magician Sony Norde looks in good shape after the break and his performance in the remaining matches would play a pivotal role in helping Mohun Bagan lift the trophy one more time.
Remaining matches : Minerva Punjab FC(A), Aizawl FC(A), Chennai City FC(H)
Equation : For Bagan to lift the trophy a minimum of 7 points is necessary with 9 points being the highest achievable. A win against relatively weaker opponents like Minerva Punjab and Chennai City is what the team should look forward. The match against Aizawl would turn out to be the decider as for Bagan even if it’s a draw they would emerge as the league winner on head to head basis ( as Mohun Bagan defeated Aizawl 3-2 in the first leg) provided Aizawl wins their remaining two matches and the points becomes equal.
The standout story so far has been the rise and rise of Mizoram’s lone I-League representatives, Aizawl. The Reds will be breaking boundaries and ceilings if they were to capture their first ever top-flight title, two weeks from this weekend. They played against Bengaluru FC on 9th April at Kanteerva which was their first game after the league resumed. But much to their surprise they lost the match courtesy a late goal from BFC on the dying minutes of the match. They needed a win to comfortably sit at the top of the League. Khalid Jamil has led his team on a journey many scarcely believed will be achievable. He, however, will need to quell any excitement of title talk within his team’s ranks and instil a sense of optimistic belief.
Remaining matches : Churchill Brothers(A), Mohun Bagan(H), Shillong Lajong FC(A)
Equation : Aizawl is on the path where they can create history. With three matches remaining they can’t afford to loose a single point. A single loss would put them in serious trouble. They need to win against the Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan, which could be a potential title decider. The disadvantage with Aizawl FC is except for Jayesh Rane, Ashutosh Mehta and the foreigners the entire team is a bunch of young local talents with practically zero knowledge of how to deal and overcome this mammoth pressure of being in the title race only in their second year of participation in the league.
Kingfisher East Bengal
The Red and Gold outfit looked the dark horse to lift this year’s I-League at the start of the season. But their declining performance in the last four matches has melted out their title hopes to a large extent. They were defeated by their Arch Rivals Mohun Bagan 2-1 last Saturday which stands out to be a huge setback for Trevor Morgan’s side. Injury problems to their dependable players like Willis Plaza and Wedson Alselme before important matches has not helped their cause at all. Back-to-Back losses before the recent international break saw them surrender their advantage back to Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan.
Remaining Matches : DSK Shivajians(H), Minerva Punjab FC(H), Mumbai FC(A)
Equation : The situation is at present is quite out of their hands now. The foremost thing is that they need to win all their three remaining matches. Next they have to defend upon Aizawl FC and Mohun Bagan with a hope that they will possibly fumble in their next encounters and loose points. They have three relatively easy outings to end the league and with Aizawl and Mohun Bagan facing each other later,that might give some aspiration to Trevor Morgan and co, but they need to make their games against smaller teams count. Most importantly, they cannot commit the follies they made against the likes of Churchill Brothers and Chennai City FC recently.