Aizawl keen to continue fairytale run

Football I-League: With title hopes gone, B'luru FC look to salvage pride

Aizawl keen to continue fairytale run
When Aizawl FC last travelled to Bengaluru, they were an unknown entity. Promoted into the I-League after a commendable performance in the second division, the team from the capital of Mizoram wanted to savour every bit of it.

But a year later, when Aizawl take the field against Bengaluru FC in a crunch I-League game on Sunday, there will be more than just three points at stake for a team that has has had fairytale sort of run so far.

The Khalid Jamil-led side are perched on the top of the league table with 30 points from their 14 games. And with their closest rivals East Bengal (27 points from 14 games) and Mohun Bagan (26 points from 13 games) locking horns later in the day in a Kolkata derby, they would want to ensure that they make the most of their opportunity to maintain their top status.

Aizawl, however, know it wouldn’t be an easy task. And if their encounter early in the season is anything to go by, the visitors should be well aware that Bengaluru will hold nothing back to make life difficult for them. Though that match ended in a 1-1 draw, Aizawl were made to toil for majority of game as Bengaluru built their attack with swift pass-and-move style. They led the stats graph too with majority share of possession, more chances created and more number of shots on target. Everything went well for Bengaluru that day, and if it was not for the Aizawl shot-stopper Albino Gomes, Bengaluru could have easily come home with three valuable points.

“To be frank, we haven’t thought about that that much. Yes, there are a few guys we have noted. But apart from that if we can play to our potential, like we have done so far, we can get a good result from this game,” said Jamil on the eve of the tie.

Aizawl have been on a seven-game unbeaten run so far in the league, winning five while drawing the other two ties. But now with a league returning after a three-week break, their momentum could be in question. But Jamil was quick to dismiss any such worries.

“I don’t think there will be any such trouble. It was a much needed break for the guys and now they are back fresh and ready to start from where they left in the last game,” he explained.

On the flip side, though Bengaluru have nothing to lose. Placed fifth with 18 points from their 14 games, their title hopes are over. But head coach Albert Roca assured that his side will not take this any lightly. “It’s an important game for us,” said Roca.

“We know that we have no chance of winning the title, but there are other important tournaments that we are a part of. And the only way to achieve our goals there is to do well in every game we play. I see this as a preparation for the other important games for us ahead.”

And this mindset also reflected in their training as Roca insisted on playing his regular starters against the others in what was a practice drill. But with Sandesh Jhigan set to miss the tie to an ankle injury, one change is for certain.

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