Mohun Bagan were firmly on course towards their second I-League title in three years but the underdog story of Aizawl FC triumphed well over the Kolkata club and the Mariners had to be content with silverspoon, yet again in the 2016/17 season.
A nine-game unbeaten run greeted the fans with much joy in the beginning of the season but a 2-1 loss to Churchill Brothers in Goa dealt a major blow to the juggernaut in March. On the penultimate gameday, Bagan were incapable of breaching eventual champions Aizawl FC's fortress amidst the hills and that signalled the end of title aspirations - finishing second.
Going into the Federation Cup as holders, the pressure of defending the title seemed to be immense but Sanjoy Sen's boys capitulated in the final against Bengaluru FC after breezing through the group stages and overcoming East Bengal in the semi-finals.
On the Asian stage, Bagan slotted right into Group E of the AFC Cup after seeing off two playoff challenges. Losing against Bengaluru FC and Maziya S&RC of Maldives meant a third-placed finish in group where only the toppers progressed onto the next round.
However, in a season of being runners-up, Mohun Bagan grabbed all the bragging rights in their three meetings with East Bengal in the Kolkata derby. Interestingly, Bengaluru FC turned out to be familiar opponents; six encounters spread twice over all three competitions - winning, losing and drawing all twice!
Goal runs through the top three performers for the Green and Maroons in 2016-17 in descending order...
3. PRITAM KOTAL
The flashing full-back from Uttarpara re-ascertained his claim as being the nation's premier right-back. This season, Kotal not only showcased his defending skills but broke more into attack, constantly overlapping the right midfielder and helped creating chances for his side.
With Bagan conceding the least number of goals this season, Kotal was helped by the central defenders in the team to break and set up play from the right flank more often than not. A testament to this would be 18 of his 59 crosses into the box turned out to be successful during the course of the league.
Great at picking up the ball in the opposition half, Kotal enthralled spectators with his pace and presence of mind while dribbling close to the touchline and delvering for the strikers. A return of one goal and two assists in 1732 minutes of I-League action stands great for the 23-year-old.
2. ANAS EDATHODIKA
It took nearly a month for Anas Edathodika to get a settled partner at the heart of defence; either he was out with a niggle or Eduardo Ferreira was injured. But, as soon as the Keralite and the Equatorial Guinea defender got together, Mohun Bagan's defence was rendered practically impenetrable.
Carrying on his good form in the ISL with Delhi Dynamos, Edathodika's understanding with Ferreira reaped rich dividends for Bagan. With more or less 80% of his challenges on oppositions being successful, the 30-year-old also trod forward on the occasional spur.
The former Pune FC man has at least saved three goals from impeccable reflexes infront of goalmouth and kept his record clean when it came to bookings - rare for a defender who took on strikers with ease.
A rock-solid presence, Edathodika etched his name in the annals of Mohun Bagan greats who had a terrific first season with the Kolkata club.
1. SONY NORDE
It was not after the third game that Sony Norde finally made his foray in his third I-League, yet again in Mohun Bagan colours. The 2015/16 Golden Ball winner lived up to his expectation with three goals and six assists this term.
Creating a further four goals for his side, the lethal right-footer gave more scares to oppositions with his free-kicks than any other player in the league. With 15 of his 39 shots during the I-League being on target, the Haitian was the numero uno headache for coaches planning on keeping him at bay.
Norde shrugged off his tag of being a non-performer in the Kolkata derby as his 28 yard freekick powered Bagan to a famous 2-1 win over East Bengal in Siliguri.
Two goals and a couple of more assists, including one against East Bengal in the semi-final saw Norde carry his team to the final of the Federation Cup where they eventually lost to Bengaluru FC.
There were times when Norde was off colour but his sheer brilliance, slithering down the left channel like a hot knife on butter made his teammates' task much easier, filling a sense of calmness among the Mariners faithful.
Sony Norde, shooting down opposition teams with the sten gun celebration of his is Mohun Bagan's Player of the Season 2016/17.