Aizawl FC, a small team from Mizoram, created history on Sunday by becoming the first club from north-east to win the I-League as they beat Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan to the title race by drawing 1-1 with Shillong Lajong. Lajong had taken the early lead when centre-forward Asier Pierrick Dipanda slammed home a header in the ninth minute at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong.
That complicated things for the visitors as they needed at least a draw to win the title. But Aizawl recovered from the setback to dominate the game thereafter. Despite some stout defending by the hosts, William Lalnunfela finally made sure that Aizawl won the title when he found the equaliser in the 67th minute. Having beaten Mohun Bagan 1-0 last week, Aizawl FC were three points ahead of Bagan on the points table and needed a draw or a win to lift the title.
Mohun Bagan, on the other hand needed to win, which they did by beating Chennai City FC 2-1, but they were dependent on Shillong Lajong’s victory for their fate. Aizawl ended the league on 37 points while Mohun Bagan finished second on 36. They have won the I-League title in their second season, becoming the first club from the Northeast to bag the title. Aizawl FC and coach Khalid Jamil, with their shoe-string budget and mostly local players, have indeed created Indian football’s fairytale like Leicester City did in the Premier League last year.
Jamil said he was happy that the Team has been able to finish the job.”At half time, I just told the boys that you won’t get another such 45 minutes in your life. We knew we were 45 minutes away from being the Champion. We had to be extra special in the second half,” he said at the post-match press conference.