Mohun Bagan vs Aizawl FC: The season in contrast

Team Jersey  |  Aizawl FC  |  1 Year Ago

Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC clash today in a title-deciding six-pointer in Mizoram. With both teams tied at the top and only the head to head is separating them, a win for either side would effectively seal the title in their favour with only one more game to go in the I-League this season. 


Whilst Mohun Bagan were touted as one of the favourites for lifting the title from the get-go, the rise of Aizawl, a team whose relegation was overturned at the end of last season, has been an unprecedented one. The team from the North East has risen from the ashes like a phoenix and only six years after the club as a whole, it finds itself at the cusp of making Indian football history.


No team from North-East has ever got so close!

While the likes of Shillong Lajong (who have always been marked as the main flag bearers of the NorthEastern football) and later Roya Wahingdoh have threatened, but they’ve never been anything but pretenders. And thus, Aizawl’s season which can surely be termed as the ‘fairytale’ run.


The Start

Mohun Bagan started the season in ominous fashion. Even though they were missing their main man Sony Norde in the early run, they had enough in their arsenal to not only carry on for the time being, but keep themselves in the thick of the things at the top.


The Mariners, in fact, didn’t concede until their fourth game against Chennai City and didn’t lose a game till their 10th of the season as a resurgent Churchill Brothers under Derrick Pereira caught them off guard even after going a goal down at the Tilak Maidan.


For Aizawl, their start was equally impressive as they started the campaign going four games unbeaten, winning three of them. This included a hard-fought opening day draw away to East Bengal and a thrilling victory in the North-East derby over Shillong. 


Their season, however, threatened to fizzle out after that. Two losses in their next three games at the hands of the entrants Chennai and Mohun Bagan in the space of three games had led many to think that their bubble had finally burst. The story, though, would be very different.


Bagan falter as Aizawl stake their claim at the top

Even after a strong start, which included four wins from their first seven games, not many wanted to pay much attention to what was really in the Aizawl pot even though the smell was magnificent. That was about to change.


With star performances from all around the pitch and led by their midfield chief Al Amna, the North East side began to show that they not merely a storm in a teacup. They were churning out impressive performances, hitting well above their weight and more importantly taking home the points as they skyrocketed up the league table. 


Between 10th February and 4th March, the Reds of Mizoram notched up five wins from their six games to firmly set the cat amongst the pigeons. 


Bagan, on the other hand, began unravelling. Sony Norde, who had been a pale shadow of himself till then really began to catch the eye, but not for the right reason. The other stars like Yusa Katsumi and Darryl Duffy were not having the desired effect, whilst Eduardo’s presence at the back or the lack of it was causing further trouble.


After going unbeaten for the first nine games of the season, the Mariners were suddenly in trouble. The loss to Churchill was followed by hapless performances against Mumbai City and Bengaluru FC, both of whom were struggling themselves to find their groove.


Bagan come charging back

With Bagan’s commitment in the AFC Cup, they always had a few games in hand. However, the hiccup in the middle just before the international break up had put a major dent in their title aspirations. 


But, upon the return to action, the Green and Maroon brigade began to shift gears. After setting the mood with a 3-0 win over Bengaluru, they romped home to a memorable 2-1 victory over East Bengal in the Kolkata derby –  a loss that would later cost Trevor Morgan his job just a few days later. Another thing to smile about was the resurgence of Sony Norde in these games. The Haitian star was truly coming into his own.


The door was left ajar for Bagan to charge in with Aizawl, suffering a mini-setback when they went down 0-1 Bengaluru just before the Kolkata derby.


However, just as they looked like soaring to the title, Bagan stumbled.  Their play in the last two games have been nothing to be inspired of. Whilst the Mariners were predominantly second-best in their draw against Shillong, a last gasp winner from Norde that salvaged all three points over Minerva.


And just to make things even more interesting, Aizawl recorded a comfortable 3-1 win over Churchill Brothers, to make sure that title surely goes down to the wire.


What does it all mean?

Whilst the pressure of their glorious past will certainly be on Mohun Bagan’s shoulders, Aizawl carries the hopes and aspirations of the North East.


Sanjoy Sen and his men will again be going into the game as favourites boasting of the bigger stars. But the challenge of playing in the North East where both the high altitude as well as the partisan support becomes big factors of the proceedings can’t be underestimated.


On the other hand, with Mohun Bagan holding the edge in terms of head to head record (having won the first leg 3-2), the onus will be upon the home side to come out and express themselves. And that will certainly leave spaces for the quick footed Bagan stars like Norde and Katsumi to exploit.


All in all, we have a footballing treat on our hands. One which we hope won’t forget for some time to come.



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