IN A MATCH BEING RE-PLAYED after it was cancelled due to overwhelming rain and thunderstorm before, Mohun Bagan took on Aryan Club in a Calcutta Football League encounter at Barasat today. The match ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
Mohun Bagan started the game with an aggressive posture playing Dudu and Katsumi among the starters along with Ram Malik up the right flank. But it did not work as well as they had wished as a barrage of missed chances and terrible teamwork in the final third rendered all of Bagan's efforts futile. Ram Malik showed some activity in the flanks, and the incessant fouls on Katsumi Yusa earned the Green and Maroons a couple of free kicks from scoring range, but it all came to naught. Third choice keeper Arnab Das Sharma pulled off a couple of good saves to ensure that the I-League champions were spared a major humilation.
This results came right before another bad news struck Bagan, as IFA decided to dock the 3 points they won from the Tollygunge Agragami match because they failed to keep a registered Under-23 player on the pitch for the entire game, as the rule mandates. This means Mohun Bagan have finished this CFL campaign in the third position, with 15 points from their 10 matches. This is the first time the Green and Maroons have finished outside the top two in 13 years. It's also been decades since there has been a 13 point difference between the two big guns of Kolkata football, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
After the match ended, coach Sanjay Sen did not hold back his disappointment at the way his foreign players performed in the CFL,
"Dudu, Gustavo and Judelin did not play well at all. And you have all seen how Katsumi played. East Bengal did it with Dong. But we couldn't."
The coach's words indicate there might be a major re-shuffling in the team ahead of the I-League, especially among the foreigners. Katsumi, despite being criticised, is likely to stay and be joined by Sony Norde. But the positions of Dudu, Judelin and Gustavo are far from guaranteed. The SK Jamal Gold Cup, to be held in Bangladesh this October, may be the final chance these players get to prove themselves. It is also likely that Mohun Bagan will recruit some players from Pune FC and Bharat FC if they choose to shut down their first teams.
But while this was a terrible day for the I-League champions, the results have set the stage for an unlikely last-day relegation battle. Last season's title contender Tollygunge Agragami, bolstered by the 3 points they were awarded from the Mohun Bagan match, will take on Aryan on Wednesday. Standing on 12 points from 9 matches, they must earn at least a draw from this match to save themselves from relegation to Premier Division B. At a time when the title race has long been over and public interest around the remainder of the CFL has all but died down, this may make for an intersting contest to wrap up the season with.