BY NISANTH V EASWAR Follow @Niktheblue94 on Twitter
Mohun Bagan lost just three games in the whole 2017-18 I-League season and still ended third on the table behind champions Minerva Punjab and NEROCA.
One of the biggest clubs in India ended a turbulent league season on a sour note when they were held by Gokulam Kerala in Kozhikode on the last matchday. There were positives to take away, but a club of Bagan’s stature could and should have done better.
So what went wrong for the two-time runner-up and 2015 I-League champions?
The sun shined bright at Mohun Bagan’s training ground as the team prepared for their yet another chase for glory. Much was expected of them after Sony Norde signed a contract extension to remain at the club. Everything looked alright until the stalemates started piling up.
In their first nine league games (out of the total 18), they acquired three wins, four draws and two defeats. They suffered a poor run of results at home and that started the tumble down from the top.
The Mariners played eight back-to-back matches at home during December and January (don’t act surprised, this is I-League we’re talking about) and the team successfully busted the ‘myth’ that is known as ‘home advantage’. They obtained just 12 points (three wins, three draws and two defeats) from that run of fixtures and left themselves with just one more home match for the rest of the season.
Of the eight wins this season, five have come away from home. In fact, it is their form away from home (unbeaten) that helped them climb into the top-four. Imagine if they had sorted out their troubles in front of the home crowd. The draws that piled up ultimately resulted in the then head coach Sanjoy Sen stepping down from the helm.
Things kicked into life again as Sankarlal Chakraborty took charge of the team to mastermind a turnaround but it failed to fructify. If you ask the supporters of Mohun Bagan about the biggest loss of the season, they will tell you it is Sony Norde.
The superstar Haitian forward was released by the club in January due to a long-term knee-injury he picked up during a match against Churchill Brothers. While Minerva Punjab trusted Chencho Gyeltshen to come up with the goods every game, Mohun Bagan was left with Aser Dipanda Dicka.
Aser Dipanda ended the season as the leading goalscorer with 13 goals but if he and Ansumana Kromah had converted their chances when it mattered, Bagan would be sitting pretty at the top of the table. Not often does a league top scorer gets criticised but that is what happens when you miss plenty of chances at a big club like Mohun Bagan.
Ansumana Kromah’s time at Bagan was hideous, to say the least. The Liberian striker acted as if he did not know where the goal was even when he was inside the penalty box and was ultimately pushed out of the club due to his terrible outings. The fact that most fans were unconcerned when he joined arch-rivals East Bengal speaks volumes about his time at the club.
The smoke might have come later on in the season but when Mohun Bagan lost 1-2 to a 10-man Chennai City in front of their home ground, the fire had already started burning at the legendary club.