Mohun Bagan will meet Chirag tomorrow in an important I league match to be played in Barasat Stadium from 6.30 pm. Mohun Bagan has lost their last two I league matches and they are in a must win situation in their 5 remaining matches of I league. Not only will Mariners have to win the matches but will have to hope that Churchill lose points against either Air India or Mohammedan. Jose Barreto will be back in team after missing 2 AFC cup matches due to injury.
Mohun Bagan had their practice session in afternoon today. In practice the first team was as follows: Sangram, Mohanraj, Dipak, Manju, Habibur, Ishfaq, Masih, Marcos, Tulunga, Baichung and Barreto. After practice, coach Karim Bencharifa said, "We are not thinking of what other teams are doing. We will have to win the next 5 matches. This season so far has been quite successful for Mohun Bagan and has been the most successful season after 2002 and also for any Kolkata clubs after 2005." Rahul Kumar said, "Still many upsets can happen, we will have to concentrate on our game and win the next five matches, then we will see where we finish."
McDowell Mohun Bagan has had a fair share of ups and downs on the ONGC I-League 2008-09. They started off at a very depressing note with loses and draws at the initial stages and in fact were able to only muster three points from the first five games. Then team started performing and the dream run resulted in McDowell Mohun Bagan climbing to the top spot in the league table with ten wins in a row. The press and the football pundits sat up and took notice of the dream run and marked them as potential I-League contender. Then the graph started to climb down with back-to-back defeats, first in the hands of their archrival, Kingfisher East Bengal at the YBK and then against Churchill Brothers in Panaji, Goa.
As of date, three teams, two from Goa, Churchill Brothers (42 points from 20 matches), Sporting Clube the Goa (39 points from 20 matches) and McDowell Mohun Bagan, Kolkata (33 points from 17 matches) are in the title hunt. As is evident, McDowell Mohun Bagan has played three matches less than the other two Goan teams because of AFC Cup commitment. Tomorrow they take on a local outfit Chirag United who are languishing in the tenth spot of the table.
Today, on March 22nd, 2008 Churchill Brothers took on another Kolkata outfit, Kingfisher East Bengal in Goa and came out victorious 3-1. This means that they have just two matches left, first an away match against Air India at Mumbai on 28th March’08 and their last a relatively “soft” home match against another Kolkata outfit, Mohammedan Sporting, who are hovering in the relegation zone, the date to be announced later by AIFF.
So for McDowell Mohun Bagan to win the I-League 2008-09 two things must need to happen. First from here on, they need to win all their matches without any let-up. Secondly, at least for once, Churchill and especially, their goal-scoring machine and powerhouse Odafa Okolie needs to have a really bad day in office. At least a draw against Bimal Ghosh’s Air India would suffice. Otherwise, as things stands, they are nearly home and dry and beyond any other’s reach because of a very superior goal difference of +26 vis-à-vis Sporting Goa’s +6 and McDowell Mohun Bagan’s +6.
REPORT: RANA BOSE AND SHILADITYA MITRA
PICTURE: SOUMYADEB SINHA