Bengaluru, June 1: Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan clinched their maiden I-League title and their first domestic championship in 13 years after managing a 1-1 draw against defending champions Bengaluru FC at Kanteerva Stadium here on Sunday. [Kolkata celebrates Mohun Bagan's I-League win]
Bello Rasaq scored the equaliser to give Bagan the much-needed point and pocket their fourth national title. The title also ended their five-year trophy drought.
Incidentally, it was Nigeria's Abdul Saliu, who scored the winning goal for Bagan in the 2001-02 National Football League title, and this time too a Nigerian in Rasaq scored the much-needed goal.
Bengaluru's John Johnson drew first blood in the 41st minute as the hosts hung on to the lead into the first half. Bagan fans were nearly lost for breath when Rasaq scored the equaliser in the 87th minute to bring them back to life.
Rasaq headed the ball past the resplendent Bengaluru goalkepeer Ralte to start the celebrations back home in the City of Joy.
The first half completely belonged to Bengaluru, who made some splendid moves, thanks to their wonderful midfielders constantly feeding the strikers to have a go at the goal.
The second half belonged to Bagan who kept pushing into the defence of the hosts at regular intervals and the hosts went into the shell, defending the lead they had taken in the first half.
Despite the Bengaluru fans dominating the capacity crowd, there was nothing their players could do to stop a rampant Mohun bagan in the second half.
Earlier Ashley Westwood, the Bengaluru coach, made a bold decision to drop international and captain Sunil Chetri and fielded young and pacy Udanta Singh who bolstered the mid-field.
Bengaluru who needed nothing less than a win to lift the crown, started strongly and created a lot of opportunities in the first half.
Defender Johnson put the defending champions with a superb header to the right of the net to give the near-capacity crowd everything to cheer about.
Johnson also defended a beautiful move by Bagan in the box after he successfully denied Balwant Singh from scoring an equaliser in the two-minutes extra time.
The visitors also lost a very good opportunity for taking the lead in 39th minute when Sony Norde blasted a fast one inside the box, but the ball fortunately hit the post, much to the relief of Bengaluru.
It took 82 minutes for Sen to make his first change as he introduced Jeje Lalpekhlua in place of the listless Balwant.
Ralte kept Bengaluru in the tie as he denied Dhanachandra from a Yusa corner-kick. In the following flag-kick by Norde, Rasaq headed home to score the elusive equaliser.
Bengaluru FC did string together a couple of attacks in the final minutes but Bagan held their fort together to earn a well-deserved draw.