CFL 2018: Takeaways for Mohun Bagan as they become unbeaten champions

Mohun Bagan

Even hardcore Mohun Bagan fan would have scoffed at that soothsayer if he had prophesied at the beginning of the tournament that his favourite team would remain unbeaten after 12 rounds and also clinch the championship with a game in hand.

It was a lacklustre start to their league campaign as Sankarlal Chakraborty's men struggled to get the better of minnows like Pathachakra, Rainbow and even George Telegraph. But the brand of football they played on Tuesday evening against Mohammedan Sporting after going a goal down was spectacular, to say the least. A fitting finale for a team which had stuttered in the initial rounds, gained steam thereafter and reached their peak in the business end of the tournament. 

Let us have a look at the primary takeaways for Chakraborty and his staff after a fulfilling campaign where they not only clinched their 30th title but also managed to stop East Bengal's juggernaut in the local league amidst administrative doldrums in the club. 

Mohun Bagan
Mohun Bagan

Fresh faces & junior players rising to the occasion

After a string of regulars like SK Faiaz, Nikhil Kadam, Ricky and Raynier Fernandes decided to jump ship and join Indian Super League (ISL) outfits, it was a tough task for Chakraborty to start from scratch and build a winning unit with a host of fresh & fringe players. When there is an influx of new players, a team takes some time to settle down and this might be one of the possible reasons for their jittery start to the league.

Pintu Mahata has been the break-out star for Mohun Bagan and has seamlessly filled the vacant boots left by Faiaz on the flanks. His performance in the Kolkata derby was impressive as he showed fantastic composure to find the back of the net with a first-time volley. Against Md. Sporting, he scored the winner in the 89th minute as he once again showed maturity in front of goal when he went for placement rather than power.

Sourav Das is another player who had been on the fringes in the previous season but stepped up his game to establish himself as an undisputable starter in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) for Bagan. He has grown in stature and confidence with each passing game and has put in reasonably impressive shifts in midfield where he not only broke up opposition play but also dictated the tempo of the game. 

A set of new players have arrived to replace the erstwhile regulars and most of them have put in assured performances. Lalchhawnkima has been able to build a healthy understanding with Eze Kingsley at the heart of defence and has seldom put a foot wrong in CFL. Abhishek Ambekar arrived from Minerva Punjab at the back of winning the I-League title and the Mumbai-born left-back has justified his recruitment with some steady display. He has looked confident in his overlapping runs down the left flank and if he can further improve his quality of crosses, then he will be a treasured asset for Chakraborty. 

Britto PM, Tirthankar Sarkar and Mehtab Hossain have equally been effective in their limited minutes. Britto combined well with Arijit Bagui and became an instrumental part of Chakraborty's plans as Mohun Bagan attacked through the wings. Tirthankar and Mehtab have been mostly introduced at crisis situations and the duo have shown the strength of character to steer the team through rough waters. They have been exemplary with their set-piece deliveries and against Md. Sporting, Tirthankar's left foot once again weaved magic from 25 yards to score the equaliser from a dead ball situation. 

Mohun Bagan practice

Henry Kisekka and Dipanda Dicka's partnership

The two strikers have been in exceptional form for Bagan and they have amassed 16 of the 28 goals scored. They have forged a telepathic partnership in the attacking third. Against Calcutta Customs, Dipanda produced a peach of a through ball to set Kisekka up and the Ugandan striker did not fail to hit the target. Whereas against Aryan, the former Gokulam Kerala striker sent an inch-perfect delivery for Dipanda to nod home from sniffing distance of goal. 

Kisekka is quick and also has enough tricks up his sleeves to get the better of any defender. His heroics against Johnny Acosta near the touchline in the Kolkata derby is a testament to it. Although he is not exactly a goal poacher but has the instincts of a striker as he tends to be in the right positions at the right time.

Whereas, Dipanda has become the joint top scorer in CFL with his 10 goals along with former teammate Ansumana Kromah who now plays for Peerless SC. But the Cameroonian's wastefulness in front of goal should be a matter of concern. Although he has nicked in the goals, he has also made schoolboy errors at crucial moments which had cost his team dearly. Against East Bengal, Dipanda missed two easy chances when the match was tied at 2-2. The complexion of the game could have changed if he found the net on at least one occasion. 

Mohun Bagan

Time to call a spade a spade

With the I-League set to get to underway in just over a month, there have been a lot of players who have failed to prove themselves. Against Md. Sporting, Chakraborty decided to field a second-string side as he chose to rest the regulars and hand a starting berth to the benchwarmers and fringe players. It was an insipid display from Bagan as they lacked the bite in all three departments. Gurjinder Kumar was shambolic as a left back whereas Amey Ranawade looked equally rusty on the opposite flank. Darren Caldeira was handed the first start in his new colours but the former ATK midfielder was far from impressive. Bagan w the second best at the centre of the park to Md. Sporting until Chakraborty decided to shake things up.

Once touted as the next big thing of Kolkata Maidan, Azharuddin Mallick has failed to live up to the expectations. He is another candidate who must pull up his socks or run the risk of falling off track. After a disappointing CFL campaign, he must introspect.

Azharuddin Mullick
Mohun Bagan Twitter

Former Minerva Punjab striker Moinuddin Khan who scored the equaliser against Mohun Bagan in the inaugural match of the previous edition of I-League has been another player who looked out of sorts in the handful of opportunities awarded to him. It is difficult to fathom why Bagan scooped him from Minerva in the first place when the striker had a barren run for the rest of the season after getting on the scoresheet in the first match. 

Mohun Bagan must question the under-achievers if they want to do well in the I-League. The coach had commented at the beginning of the season that the underperformers will be shown the door based on their performance in CFL. Time has come to translate the words into action.