What do Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC need to do to win the I-League title?
A scenario exists where both teams could finish the season level on points.
With only two rounds of matches left to play in this I-League season, both Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC are within striking distance of the crown. It has been a season full of twists so far: from Bengaluru FC ceding the early initiative after an unwelcome slump, to East Bengal swatting aside opponents with ease before losing four straight matches, I-League 2016–17 has been full of surprises.
Not least the men from Aizawl, who are level on points with Mohun Bagan going into Saturday’s tussle at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Mizoram. Mohun Bagan have had a good season themselves, losing only once and conceding the fewest number of goals, hence seeing them among the front-runners is no surprise.
Two games. Two teams. One title. Since Aizawl and Mohun Bagan have to face each other this weekend and there is a six point gap between the top two and the third placed team, it is clear that East Bengal in third will not catch the title chasers. This leads us to a situation wherein the winner of the Aizawl versus Mohun Bagan match could almost seal the title, but there are certain complications and mathematics involved which could take the I-League title race down to the last minute of the final day, which is the 30th of April.
Here we look at what Mohun Bagan and Aizawl need to do to win the title this season.
What Aizawl FC need to do to win
On paper, the upstarts from Mizoram have a tougher run of fixtures than Mohun Bagan as the Mariners aside, the Reds will square off to northeastern rivals Shillong Lajong in their title run-in.
A win against Mohun Bagan this Saturday may not be enough for Aizawl to win the title, since the Kolkata-based outfit have a better head-to-head record against their Mizoram-based opponents, having won the reverse fixture 3–2 earlier in the season.
For Aizawl to cancel Mohun Bagan’s head-to-head advantage, they need to win against the Mariners by a two-goal margin or more on Saturday. Mohun Bagan have not lost by a two-goal margin all season in the league, hence Khalid Jamil’s side have their task cut out to do what has until now been an impossible job: beating the Mariners by a two-goal margin.
Should they win on Saturday against Mohun Bagan by less than two goals, Aizawl will need to at least draw their last game against Lajong to win the title. If they lose against the Mariners, then Aizawl will be out of the title picture no matter what happens on the final day.
If Aizawl draw the Mohun Bagan game, they’ll have to hope the Mariners lose or draw on the final day. In the case of Mohun Bagan losing their final game, a draw for Aizawl on the same day will hand the Reds the title. In the event of Bagan drawing on the final day, Aizawl must beat Lajong.
The scenario for Aizawl to win the title:
1. Win the Bagan game by two or more goals
2. Win the Bagan game by one goal, don’t lose the Lajong game
3. Draw the Bagan game, draw the Lajong game, hope Bagan lose on the final day against Chennai City
4. Draw the Bagan game, win the Lajong game, hope Bagan draw or lose on the final day against Chennai City
What Mohun Bagan need to do to win
The Mariners are the clear favourites for the title. They have a better head-to-head record over Aizawl and a superior goal difference as well. Mohun Bagan hold the aces in this season’s I-League title race, but any slip-up in the altitudes of Aizawl this Saturday could prove to be the difference between them winning and losing the title.
If they win against Aizawl on Saturday, Mohun Bagan will be crowned champions. In the event of a draw, the Mariners will need to equal Aizawl’s result on the final day. The calculations are simple enough for Sanjoy Sen’s men, who have relatively greater control over their destiny than Aizawl.
However, should they contrive to lose to Aizawl on Saturday, the Mariners will need to win their final game against Chennai City and hope Shillong Lajong inflict a defeat on Aizawl. Otherwise, a draw would be enough for Aizawl to lift what will be a title of dreams.
The scenario for Mohun Bagan to win the title:
1. Win the Aizawl game
2. Draw the Aizawl game, equal Aizawl’s result on the final day
3. Lose the Aizawl game, win the Chennai City game, hope Aizawl lose on the final day to Lajong
An intriguing end of this I-League season is on the cards. Will the heavyweights from Kolkata, Mohun Bagan, win their second I-League title? Or will the underdogs from Aizawl create history by taking the biggest prize in Indian football to the footballing hotbeds of North East India?
The next ten days promise to showcase the best Indian football has to offer and whoever comes away with the silverware will probably deserve it more than the other.