• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Kolkata’s very own Mohammedan Sporting win maiden I-League title

Mohammedan Sporting’s long wait to win their maiden I-League title finally came to an end on Saturday, April 6, 2024, at the SSA Stadium when they defeated Shillong Lajong FC 2-1 in the away match. Teams were locked 1-1 at half time.

The Black and White Brigade, thus secured promotion to the Indian Super League, provided they meet the licensing criteria.

The side from Kolkata have now garnered an unassailable 52 points from 23 matches; their closest rivals, Sreenidi Deccan FC, are eight points behind with two games to play.

Alexis Nahuel Gomez scored in the very first minute for the ultimate champions, as Douglas Rosa Tardin equalised in the 15th minute for the home team. Evgeni Kozlov scored the winner for Mohammedan in the second half, to secure the title.

The equation was simple. Mohammedan Sporting needed one point to secure their maiden I-League title. But it was never going to be a walk in the park.

Shillong Lajong have had their moments this season, but are firmly rooted as a mid-table side at seventh in the I-League table with 31 points from 23 games. But their added motivation to play spoilsport against the top dogs was on ample display.

Mohammedan Sporting, for their part, did the bit that would have calmed their nerves, at least in the opening exchanges. Their Argentine forward Alexis Gomez produced a moment of magic in the first minute itself, when he spotted Lajong keeper Neitho Chalieu off his line, and chopped it goalwards from just inside the halfway mark, as the ball sailed over the goalkeeper’s head and nestled into the net.

The job seemed half done, but a lot could happen over 90 minutes, and from what ensued over the course of the rest of the first half, it was amply clear that one goal would not be enough for the Black and White Brigade.

It took Shillong just a quarter of an hour to get back into the game, a Douglas Tardin penalty making it 1-1. It would still be enough for Mohammedan.

However, their back four had their work cut out in the first half when Lajong piled the pressure on the table toppers. Tardin and Phrangki Buam, a former Mohammedan Sporting player himself, hit the woodwork.

In another blow for Mohammedan Sporting, their goalscorer Gomez hobbled off injured, only to be replaced by Kozlov.

Lajong right back Ronney Wilson Kharbudon had the perfect opportunity to put his side in the lead, when Tardin played a ball across the face of the goal, and the former only had to tap it into an empty net. The Mohammedan camp heaved a sigh of relief when he side-footed it inches wide.

Padam Chettri, Mohammedan Sporting’s goalkeeper, who has had a stellar season, pulled off a brilliant save to maintain parity just before the half-time break, as he palmed away a shot by Marcos Rudwere from point-blank range.

The home side started with the same tempo in the second half, but the table toppers managed the situation well. They stayed back and waited for the opportunity that soon presented itself.

Kozlov, who had come on as a first-half substitute, latched on to a clearance and found himself inside the box with just the keeper to beat, which he subsequently did. Finally, some breathing space for the Black and White Brigade.

Making it a collective effort by the team, the Mohammedan Sporting defenders put in an absolute shift in injury time. Joseph Adjei showed some brilliant anticipation to position himself beside keeper Chettri as Lajong’s Kynsaibor Lhud pulled the trigger. Adjei simply booted the effort away, to secure Mohammedan’s 15th win of the season.

Source: AIFF

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