Aizawl FC roared 1-0 against East Bengal in Round 10 of the I-League to announce themselves as title contenders. This win might be pivotal in scripting a new chapter in the pages of Indian football. With 8 games left to be played, Aizawl FC are placed third with 20 points in their account ; Only one point off the top of the table.
Aizawl FC coach Khalid Jamil after his team’s 1-0 victory over the Bengal giants commented, “We can win the league if my boys truly desire and aspire to it.”
In the first match of the I-League this season when Aizawl FC drew 1-1 away at East Bengal, people were surprised that the North-Eastern outfit who had finished eight in the previous I-League season managed to take a point away. Yet actually it was Aizawl FC who had dominated large parts of the game. If it was not for Ivan Bukenya’s last minute equaliser, Aizawl FC would have returned home with 3 points ; Maybe sat on top of the table currently.
There are quite a few significant reasons why Aizawl FC should be considered as title challengers.
Aizawl FC have transformed their home stadium into a fortress
The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the country with a mesmerizing surrounding. And the Mizoram based club have made this stadium a fortress in terms of football.
Aizawl FC have won a whopping 5 of their 6 matches they have played at home this season and drew the other. That is clinching 16 points at home out of a possible 18 points. After round 10, Aizawl FC stand third with 20 points to their name. That means Aizawl FC have have earned 80% of their points, at home this season.
Aizawl have performed well against the top 5
Aizawl FC defeated Shillong Lajong in the North-East derby and table toppers East Bengal at home just like any other title contender would do. They drew with Bengaluru FC 1-1 at home in a closely fought match which ruined their perfect home record.
They also picked up one point in a 1-1 draw at the Barasat stadium away against East Bengal. They have only lost to one team in the top 5, Mohun Bagan AC. They lost 3-2 away in Kolkata in what was a thrilling match concluded by Darryl Duffy’s late winner.
Efficient Foreign quartet
Captain of the team, Alfred Kemah Jaryan has led from the front putting up strong displays throughout the season. Aizawl’s Ivorian forward Kamo Stephane Bayi is just 20 years old and creates havoc in the opponents’ area.
Aizawl FC’s number 6, Mahmoud Al Amna is a veteran midfielder with immense experience and has been a wonderful addition to the squad. Eze Kingsley Obumneme, another brilliantly scouted signing is the heart of Aizawl’s defence. The Nigerian defender has been playing in the lower leagues of India for most of his career. Yet he has repeated his performances in India’s top league.
Brimming Youth driving the team
The People’s club have a youthful squad who have been playing together for a two-three period now. Jayesh Rane, Laldanmawia Ralte, lalram Chullova, Brandon Vanlalremdika, Lalruatthara and Stephane Bayi are all integral to the team and are yet so young. Even if this team do not win the I-League this season, they can become an unstoppable force next season ; that is if the squad sticks together.
Aizawl FC head coach, Khalid Jamil is a young coach too who has meritoriously managed the well knit squad. He has deployed a different style of play than he was popular for at Mumbai FC. And it seems, the tactics are working, working quite well.
The way ahead..
The best thing about Aizawl FC is that they are a perfectly united team. They do not consist of any stand alone star. The attention is stolen as a team. They don’t depend on any single player to score all the goals ; Each time Aizawl FC score a goal, there is usually a different name registered in the scoring sheet.
Laldanmawia Ralte’s 58 minute strike against East Bengal FC on 20th February may go down as one the most important goals scored in the history of Aizawl Football Club. With six matches left to be played, if this spirited team maintain their brilliant home record and pick more points away from home, then Aizawl FC will be on course to script a new chapter in Indian football. Come this april, for the first time ever Aizawl FC may have their hands on the coveted Hero I-League trophy.
If not, for the club that finished second from the bottom last season, even a top 4 finish will bring smiles to the spectacular fans of the People’s club.
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