Dempo Sports Club, Goa secured their fourth national league triumph, with a game to spare, after edging past Shillong Lajong FC in an I-League encounter. A first-half strike by Dempo skipper Anthony Pereira was enough for the Goan side to lift the crown for a record fourth time. Dempo have accumulated 53 points from 25 matches, which itself is a record. No other team in the history of I-League has ever been able to touch the magical figure of fifty points.
Right from the round-1 of this I-league campaign, Dempo has played in a league of their own, a cut above the rest of the field. They notched up 16 wins in this campaign, six more than their nearest rivals Churchill Brothers. Dempo beagin with a 3-1 routing of Mumbai FC in their first match and never looked back after that.
Their title aspirations got a massive boost in round 13, when they outplayed Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. Mahindra United and Mohun Bagan’s poor performances against relegation battling oppositions at that crucial juncture gave Dempo a sizable lead by the end of the first-half of the marathon league. In the mean time, Dempo’s star striker Sunil Chetri got an offer from USA Major League club Kansas City and decided to leave the club in the middle of the campaign. Dempo did not prevent a grateful Chhetri from achieving his dream. But an injury crisis soon took its toll on Armando Colaco’s team and they lost to Viva Kerala and Salgaocar in two consecutive matches; which enabled Mahindra United to close the gap to just a solitary point by the end of round 16.
In round 17, Dempo had a crucial face-off with defending Champions and local rivals Churchill Brothers. Brazilian playmaker Roberto Silva inspired them to a 4-2 victory, which provided the much needed confidence boost for Dempo. They had another hiccup when they lost to Mahindra United in 19th round, which threatened their stay at the top of the table; but in the end it did not make much of a difference, as Mahindra consistently dropped vital points against the minnows to handover the advantage back to the Goan club.
Two important wins in Kolkata in round 20 and 23, against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan respectively, virtually sealed the crown for Armando Colaco’s side. Mohun Bagan also handed them a favour by defeating Dempo’s nearest competitor Mahindra United in round 22. Thus, by the end of round 23, Dempo enjoyed a huge cushion of nine points from second placed Mahindra United. As expected, Dempo managed to win over Air India and Lajong FC in following two matches to clinch the coveted crown for the record fourth time.
TheHardTackle’s Splendid Performers:
Here are the men who had a major part in making this feat possible..
Abhijit Mondal (Goalkeeper)
The veteran custodian was at his very best during the entire campaign. His man of the match performance against East Bengal in round 20, which Dempo won by a solitary goal, highlights the outstanding season he enjoyed under the bar. He was immense in the away wins against JCT and Mahindra United as well. It’s no coincidence that the top man was the goalkeeper for Dempo SC in their previous three I-League triumphs as well. A lucky charm, isn’t he?
Roberto Silva (Midfielder)
This was the Brazilian’s third consecutive season with the Goan outfit. The veteran game-maker played his part to perfection in the center of the pitch and also chipped in with crucial goals for his club. His inspirational display against Churchill Brothers in the 17th round will surely be regarded as one of the finest performances ever witnessed in any Indian club football match.
Ranty Martins (Striker):
This was also the fourth I-League medal for the talismanic Nigerian hitman. He justified his huge price-tag by finishing the league as the highest scorer for Dempo, with 15 goals against his name. Defense piercing run and clinical finishing made him one of the prized possession for the club. He bagged four man of the match awards this season.
Armando Colaco (Coach):
It would be a huge injustice to not mention this man in the elite list of top performers. Dempo is the rarest of rare clubs in this country to have retained the talented bunch of youngsters on a long term basis. The backbone of their squad remained unchanged over the years and the patience paid off in the end. And the chief architect behind the scene is none other than their shrewd tactician and coach Armando Colaco. It is a proven fact that his tactical acumen is second to none and over the years he has also proved that he is equally competent in grooming raw talent. We can just hope that AIFF administrators take a note of this; Armando Colaco has all the ingredients in him to help Indian national team in attaining greater heights.