Mohun Bagan head coach Sanjoy Sen has compared his team's performance in the I-League this season to that of La Liga giants FC Barcelona. The Kolkata powerhouses failed to defend the I-League title this time, with Bengaluru FC winning the trophy the second time, with a game to spare.
Barca saw their winning run in the current edition of the Spanish league come to a sudden halt in the closing stages of the season as they couldn't record any win in four consecutive fixtures. The defending La Liga champions lost to Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Valencia in the league, amd were also ousted from the UEFA Champions League at the quarterfinals stage by Atletico Madrid.
Luis Enrique's side, however, returned in style as they thrashed Deportivo La Coruna 8-0 in their previous La Liga fixture. Mohun Bagan's I-League ambitions may be over for the season, but Barca, with four games to go, can still defend the title.
Bagan's season, meanwhile, came crashing down probably due to complacency or a packed schedule. Following 11 I-League games this season, the Mariners looked set to defend the title as they were incredibly without a defeat, and the crammed Indian football schedule did not dent their performance even a bit in AFC Cup 2016. Mohun Bagan were definitely enjoying the "favourites" tag, but that's when the underdogs struck.
I-League newcomers Aizawl FC bagged a shock win over the Mariners during their home match in Mizoram, and that's when everything came crashing down for the Kolkata powerhouses. It could be the ban slapped on Bagan head coach Sanjoy Sen or the packed schedule or even the unavailability of key players, but the flaws in Bagan's game started becoming more prominent.
Mohun Bagan lost to East Bengal in a thrilling Kolkata derby in their next I-League fixture, and that was it. The damage was done. They were unable to record a win in any of their next two fixtures, and Ashley Westwood's army made perfect use of the opportunity to get the title back to Bengaluru, defeating Salgaocar at the Kanteerava stadium on April 17.
"Bengaluru FC deserved to win the trophy," Sen told Goal. "We lost the opportunity and we are to be blamed for not making the most of it. See Barcelona — they were leading by seven points but now they have the same points [79; as on April 22] as Atletico de Madrid. Everybody was saying that Barcelona will win the La Liga. [sic]
"So if it can happen with Barcelona, it can happen to Mohun Bagan or any team. That is the beauty of the league all over the world," he said.
"The most important thing is that we showed consistency. We played very well in the AFC Cup last year also and this season we are still unbeaten from the four matches that we played. It's good for Indian football as well," Sen said.