Chennai City became champions of the I-League after they defeated Minerva Punjab 3-1 in their final I-League encounter in Coimbatore on Saturday.
Quess East Bengal defeated Gokulam Kerala 2-1 at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, but their efforts went in vain as the southern outfit came from a goal down to avoid any final-day hiccups.
Gaurav Bora was the hero for the Tamil Nadu side as he scored twice for CCFC.
Ronald Bilala had given Minerva an early lead in the fourth minute to throw the title race wide open once again. The Punjabi side looked like it would hand East Bengal an unlikely lifeline in the title race.
I-League finale as it happened: Chennai City FC are champions
The home side in Coimbatore would not equalise till the 52nd minute, when Akashdeep Singh was called for a handball in the box. Pedro Manzi put the penalty away for his 21st goal of the season, and won the Golden Boot race for the season (joint-first with Willis Plaza).
Bora then volleyed home in the 69th minute, and then headed the ball again in the 93rd minute to seal the deal for the table toppers, in what turned out to be a nervy second half.
East Bengal in Kozhikode, struggled for the longest part, as Marcus Joseph put Gokulam in front in the 69th minute. The Carribean striker received a pass and stroked the ball home past Rakshit Dagar.
Super substitute Jaime Santos then drew East Bengal level with a penalty and then Laldanmawia Ralte struck late in the 86th minute to give the Red and Golds a glimmer of hope.
But with Chennai winning the match, overcoming a late surge from Minerva Punjab, East Bengal’s victory went in vain.
For Chennai City FC, founded by two young football-loving owners based out of the southern metropolis, the triumph is nothing short of a dream.
The club has exhibited vision in its short existence, right from the appointment of and freedom given to Singaporean coach Nawas. From scouting and building the team for the season, to getting on board top European club FC Basel as part owners of the club in a landmark deal earlier in the year, he had a free hand, and it paid rich dividends.
In the last game, the Delhi-based Bora did the star turn with two second-half goals, as Chennai City FC won their maiden title, beating the defending champions Minerva Punjab.
Manzi, their premiere Spanish striker fittingly scored a goal to join Plaza as the joint top scorer of the league, but the day undoubtedly belonged to the young Bora, a versatile defender cum midfielder who capped off a brilliant season with a double-strike when it mattered most for his team.
Danish Farooq struck twice to guide debutante Real Kashmir to a thrilling 3-2 win over Neroca in what could be their penultimate I-League match on Saturday.
It was the hosts who drew first blood in the 18th minute through Subash Singh. Neroca FC scored their second goal in the added time (90th + 4th) through Felix Chidi.
Real Kashmir, however, powered by a brace from Farooq (29th, 48th) and Bazie Armand (57th) wrapped the game in style.
With this loss, Neroca FC finished their campaign in the sixth place with 26 points while Real Kashmir propel to the third position with 36 points on their debut season.
The visitors pressed hard right from the start and nearly scored a goal in the 10th minute but an unfortunate foul on the keeper saw the snow leopards goal disallowed.
Subash Singh drew first blood for the hosts in the 18th minute through a pass from Chencho.
Real Kashmir soon found their equalizer when an accurate pass from Surchandra Singh saw Danish make no mistake in finding the back of the net in the 29th minute.
The game thereafter was a mix of attacks from both the teams with the visitors attacking more prominently but neither side could find the lead.
The first half came to a close with both Neroca and Real Kashmir tied at 1-1.
At the Khuman Lampak Stadium, it were Real Kashmir who took the attacking lead at the start of the second half. Their pressure soon yielded results as they took a 2-1 lead in the 48th minute through Danish, who scored his second goal of the game.
Neroca, trailing by a goal, now shifted gears but lack of luck and great defending by Real Kashmir eluded them from finding the equalizer.
Real Kashmir scored their third goal in 57th minute when Bazie Armand headed it in giving the visitors comfortable 3-1 lead.
Neroca FC, thereafter, couldn’t create many opportunities and their only consolation was their second goal which came in the added time (90th + 4th) through Felix Chidi.
Aizawl finish seventh
Aizawl ended their I-League campaign on a high, notching up a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Churchill Brothers on Saturday.
Churchill Brothers drew first blood through Willis Plaza in the fourth minute but an unfortunate own goal in the 42nd minute from Hussein Eldor of Churchill Brothers brought up the equaliser for Aizawl.
Kromah then converted a penalty in the 87th minute to earn the win for Aizawl. Aizawl keeper Lalawmpuia was adjudjed the hero of the match. With this win, Aizawl FC finished their I-League campaign in the seventh place with 24 points, while Churchill Brothers finished their campaign three places above with 34 points.
(With PTI inputs)
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