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  Sports   Football  11 Mar 2017  ‘March jinx’ haunts Bagan

‘March jinx’ haunts Bagan

THE ASIAN AGE. | NOVY KAPADIA
Published : Mar 11, 2017, 1:38 am IST
Updated : Mar 11, 2017, 5:59 am IST

In 2016, Bagan were at one stage on 25 points from 11 matches but finished with 30 points from 16 matches.

(Representational Image)
 (Representational Image)

The Ides of March are affecting mighty Mohun Bagan once again. Last year in the 9th Hero I-League, Bagan were unbeaten from Round 1 to 11. Then they stumbled, losing 1-2 to Aizawl FC in an away match on March 26.

After that came the downfall — a loss to East Bengal in the derby match at Siliguri, in which Jeje Lalpekhlua’s feeble penalty kick was saved. Against both Shillong Lajong and DSK Shivajians they took the lead and were within sight of victory but allowed their opponents to come back and draw the match.

In 2016, Bagan were at one stage on 25 points from 11 matches but finished with 30 points from 16 matches. This dismal run saw them miss out on the title. Bengaluru FC with a late surge, finished as champions with 32 points.

History has an uncanny way of repeating itself. In the 10th Hero I-League in 2017, Bagan again made a blistering start, with six wins and three draws. They were well placed on 21 points from nine matches.

Then again came the jinx of March. They lost 1-2 to Churchill Brothers on March 4, and four days later drew 2-2 with bottom of the table Mumbai FC.

They are now stuck on 22 points from 11 matches, trailing surprise leaders Aizawl FC (29 points from 13 matches) and second placed East Bengal (27 points from 13 matches).

Suddenly star-studded Mohun Bagan are looking shaky. The defence is vulnerable to quick counter-attacks. Injuries are taking their toll and key players are missing. Darryl Duffy, their top-scorer with six goals, is unavailable with a groin injury. Hard tackling midfielder Pronoy Halder is also injured and reliable goalkeeper Debjit Mazumdar may miss some matches due to a knee injury. To add to their woes, ace winger Sony Norde (an international from Haiti) is also not fully fit and so not playing at full pace.

A major concern is that their four overseas players are either jaded or injured and striker Jeje Lalpekhlua is not at his sparkling best.

Just like in 2016, the burden of playing simultaneously in the I-League and the AFC Cup is taking a toll on Mohun Bagan. They are slipping in the business end of the I-League. Sanjoy Sen who took over as Bagan’s coach in December 2014, should have realised by now that he needed a larger squad to compete in both competitions. He attempted rotation of players but the squad lacks depth.

With East Bengal also suffering from injury problems, the title race for the I-League is now wide open. From March 12 there will be a three-week break to prepare the national team for the Asian Cup qualifiers. India takes on Myanmar away on March 28.

So the star players of East Bengal (seven), Bengaluru FC (eight) and Mohun Bagan (five) get no respite.

They could be jaded when the I-League resumes in April. Aizawl FC, a low budget team costing just about Rs 2 crore, could benefit from the fatigue factor of the star-studded teams.  As there is no player from Aizawl among the India probables, they could return for the last four rounds in April reinvigorated and on the cusp of history.

Tags: mohun bagan, i-league, mumbai fc