BENGALURU: A battle royal is in the offing as Mohun Bagan bid to dethrone Bengaluru FC from the I-League pedestal. The Kolkata club has 38 points, two clear of BFC and need a draw for the title. The home team must win to retain what they won on debut last season.
Mohun Bagan won the title in 1997-98, 1999-2000 and 2001-02. After it was rechristened I-League in 2007-08, Mohun Bagan have not won. Not just them, no Kolkata club has bagged the title since dominated by Goa’s Dempo, Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar. The last time a club from the eastern metropolis won was East Bengal in 2003-04.
All eyes of Bengal will be on Mohun Bagan, for this is their best opportunity to break the jinx. Coach Sanjay Sen has made it clear that Mohun Bagan will not try to force a draw but play to win. BFC coach Ashley Westwood can do nothing except ask the boys to play well and win, more so as they lost 1-4 to Mohun Bagan in the away game at Salt Lake Stadium in February. But a lot of water has flown down the Cauvery and Hooghly since.
Mohun Bagan have gone from strength to strength. In fact they had established a lead of six points and had a stranglehold on the league. Yet, they dropped points but still managed to keep a slender lead to the very end. BFC improved several notches and not just kept themselves in contention but also did wonderfully to make the pre-quarterfinals of the AFC Cup after a narrow defeat in the AFC Champions League preliminary game.
Haiti striker Sony Norde has been in great form and with Cameroon’s Pierre Boya and India’s Balwant Singh for company, will be a potent force for Mohun Bagan.
On the other hand, BFC’s striking trio of Aussie Sean Rooney, Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh haven’t been as effective forcing Westwood to opt for a packed midfield with Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Thoi Singh propping up the attack. Shankar Sampangiraj has been employed more as spoiler, but he has a lot of incisiveness.
Nevertheless, Mohun Bagan’s defence has not inspired much confidence. though BFC too have often struggled in the face of repeated and organised attacks.
Goalkeepers Shilton Pal for the visitors and Lalthuammawia Ralte for the home team have revealed a safe pair of hands.
Essentially, the team able to control the midfield better and keep possession will have a better chance to triumph rather than the one which opts for the long ball game on a relatively smaller pitch. Mohun Bagan seem to enjoy a slight advantage though Bengaluru FC are eager to exact revenge at home.
Teams (from): Bengaluru FC: Lalthuammawia Ralte; Rino Anto, Curtis Osano (Kenya), Shankar Sampangi, John Johnson (England), Lalchhuanmawia, Joshua Walker (England), Thoi Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Sean Rooney (Australia), Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, C K Vineeth, Siam Hangal, Beikhokhei Beingaichho. Mohun Bagan: Shilton Pal, Debjit Majumder; Pritam Kotal, Kinshuk Debnath, Bello Rasaq (Nigeria), Dhanachandra Singh, Anwar Ali; Katsumi Yusa (Japan), Shehnaj Singh, Souvik Chakraborty, Bikramjit Singh, Sony Norde (Haiti), Pierre Boya (Cameroon), Balwant Singh. Kick off 7 pm. Live on Ten Action.
Five-Time Champs Dempo Go Down
Vasco: Goan club Dempo were relegated from the I-League after they went down 2-0 to Salgaocar at the Tilak Maidan on Sunday. The five-time champions went into the match with only relegation-free Bharat FC behind them, needing a win to ensure survival, but lost out to two late goals by Gilbert Oliviera and Daryl Duffey. East Bengal were trounced 1-5 by Shillong Lajong in Shillong with Trinidadian striker Cornell Glen scoring a hat-trick. Sporting Clube de Goa, who for so long were rooted to the bottom of the table, also ensured survival with a thumping 4-0 win over Pune FC. Mumbai FC finished off with a win, downing Bharat FC 2-1.