Mohun Bagan clinch I-League trophy
With just four minutes left on the clock, Nigerian defender Bello Rasaq headed in to hold defending champion Bengaluru FC 1-1 at home and propel Mohun Bagan to the national league title -- their fourth, and the first after a long wait of 13 years.
Bangalore: With just four minutes left on the clock, Nigerian defender Bello Rasaq headed in to hold defending champion Bengaluru FC 1-1 at home and propel Mohun Bagan to the national league title -- their fourth, and the first after a long wait of 13 years.
It all seemed over for the green and maroon brigade at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on a wet Sunday evening, after Englishman John Johnson's header in the 41st minute gave the home side the lead.
But Nigerian defender Rasaq took Bagan to glory with his 86th minute header as millions of fans erupted in joy.
Needing just a draw to seal the deal, Bagan ended the season with 39 points to end their wait of 13 long years to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.
It was the fourth national title for Bagan after having won the last in 2002 when the tournament was called the National Football League. It was christened I-League from 2007 onwards.
As soon as the referee blew the long whistle, Bagan fans catching the action in Kolkata on giant screens and TV, erupted in joy. Wild celebrations went late into the night while former greats including Chuni Goswami hailed the victory for re-establishing Bengal's supremacy on the football map.
The home side looked more pressing of the two outfits in the first few minutes as Bagan took some time to settle down in the wet conditions. The visitors though got into the groove which led to a brilliant mid-field tussle between the two sides.
Bengaluru blew away their first real chance when striker Robin Singh could only find the gloves of Shilton Paul as he mistimed his shot from close distance.
In the 39th minute, latching onto a through ball from Cameroonian striker Pierra Boya, Bagan's Sony Norde ran a few yards before unleashing a right-footer that left the crossbar rattling, an attempt that deserved a better reward.
Meanwhile, at the other end three minutes later, it was John Johnson who scored, heading in a corner from Lyngdoh.
The home side went into halftime leading 1-0.
After the breather, it was the visitors who went into attack from the word go, needing a goal there were a lot of attempts on the Bengaluru half but none seemed to bore fruit for the mariners.
Just when it looked that Bengaluru were going to retain the coveted trophy, Bagan's Rasaq turned out to be a saviour for his side as he powered home a header from close range.
Back home in Kolkata, wild scenes prevailed all around as fans of al age drenched in merry making. Amid incessant burst of fire crackers, hundreds of youngsters hit the streets on motorcycles chanting the names of their heroes and indulging in merrymaking.
Donning the green and maroon jerseys, hundreds of people hit the streets throwing gulal at each other and distributing sweets.
Giant screens were put up across the city to catch the action.
Along with former football greats, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Union Urban Development Minister Babul Supriyo congratulated Bagan for the feat.
Bagan legend and former India captain Chuni Goswami said the victory has established Bengal's supremacy back on the country's football map.
"I have been associated with Bagan for 70 years now and won many a trophies but this win is really really special. It has established Bengal's supremacy once again on the country's football map," said Goswami.
The chief minister tweeted: "After 11 years the Football I-League trophy comes back to Bengal. Congratulations Mohun Bagan."
Supriyo, who caught the action on TV, said: "No matter how much we shout for Barcelona or a Real Madrid, this is the original ecstasy. It's a great experience and I want to congratulate all the Bagan players especially Bello."
Club secretary Anjan Mitra said the victorious team will be given a grand welcome upon its arrival in the city on Monday.
"The team is coming to the city tomorrow (Monday). The entire team along with players who could not go would come to the club in the team bus straight from the airport. All the members and supporters will be present at the club to welcome the heroes," said Mitra.