Shillong Lajong end season in 6th, NEROCA 2nd, Aizawl 5th
Shillong, Mar 8: Minerva Punjab created history by becoming the first team from North India to win the I-League title, which they did in style by beating Churchill Brothers 1-0 on their home turf in Chandigarh today.
The winning goal was scored by William Asiedu in the 16th minute.
With the other three title contenders drawing their games, Minerva finished three points clear of NEROCA of Manipur, who end in second place, the best finish for a North East team in their maiden season of an I-League.
NEROCA drew 1-1 away at East Bengal, while the Gokulam Kerala-Mohun Bagan match also ended the same way. NEROCA, East Bengal and Bagan were all with a shot of winning the title, but couldn’t get the results they needed on the final day of the season.
Gokulam’s draw means that the Kerala side finish their first season in the I-League in seventh place, leaving Shillong Lajong safe in sixth. It’s not SLFC’s best placing in a season, but it does mean that they will receive direct entry into the upcoming Super Cup, while the clubs below them will have to get through a qualifying round. Last year’s champions Aizawl FC finished in fifth place.
Churchill Brothers were relegated after this defeat. Though the ninth-placed team have 17 points compared to Indian Arrows’ 15, the latter are immune from relegation worries.
Did other I-League teams attempt a fix?
Meanwhile, there was a touch of controversy yesterday when the All India Football Federation said on its website that it had “received a letter from Minerva Punjab highlighting an approach to their players and officials from other participating teams in the I-League. The case is presently being handled by AIFF integrity officer who is doing a thorough investigation into the matter and necessary action will be taken as per the regulations.”
(Photo contributed by the All India Football Federation)