In a thrilling final day of the I-League, title contenders Minerva Punjab, East Bengal, NEROCA FC and Mohun Bagan were in action on Thursday.
Finally, it was Minerva Punjab FC who won their maiden I-League title on Thursday by beating Churchill Brothers FC 1-0.
William Opoku Asiedu scored the decisive goal in the 15th minute and the Punjab-based outfit held on to the advantage till the end.
Minerva thus became the first team from Punjab to win the title since the 1996-97 season when now defunct JCT claimed the inaugural National Football League (NFL), which was later re-christened as the I-League.
Two-time champions Churchill Brothers, meanwhile, have been relegated.
In the other all-important match of the day, Mohun Bagan were held 1-1 by a spirited Gokulam Kerala FC in Kozhikode.
Though Asier Pierrick Dipanda Dicka struck in the 26th minute to put Mohun Bagan in the lead, Henry Kisekka (45+1) found the equaliser just before half-time.
Mohun Bagan thus finished the 2017-18 I-League at the third spot with 31 points.
Dicka finished as the highest scorer this with 13 goals to his name.
Gokulam finished seventh in the 10-team league ladder with 21 points from their full quota of 18 matches.
Mohun Bagan were off to promising start and created several chances in the early stages.
Nikhil Kadam created the first clear chance for Mohun Bagan in the ninth minutre when his cross into the Gokulam penalty box missed the poorly marked Akram Moghrabi by mere inches.
The visitors had another chance just three minutes later, but Dicka's header off a free-kick by Cameron Watson was met with an excellent save by Gokulam goalkeeper Bernard.
Kadam's attempt off the rebound went wide following a slight deflection.
The Gokulam defence finally cracked under the relentless pressure when Arijit Bagui raced down the right wing to find Watson inside the penalty area.
Watson's shot came off the crossbar and Dicka punished the Gokulam defenders for their failure to clear the ball with some excellent dribbling skills and a fine finish.
But the celebrations of the Mohun Bagan fans was destined to be shortlived as the hosts found the equaliser during first half injury time.
Mohammad Rashid capitalised on a mistake by Mohun Bagan defender Rana Gharami to head the ball into the path of Kisekka, who went on to score with a superb finish.
Mohun Bagan continued with their attacking approach in the second half with Gokulam content to defend and hit back occasionally on the counter.
Although Goluma created a couple of promising chances towards the end, the decisive goal eluded both teams.
Mohun Bagan have accumulated the same number of points as East Bengal, but sit one spot above their arch-rivals due to a better head-to-head record courtesy their wins in both legs of the Kolkata derby.
Manipur debutants NEROCA FC held city football giants East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in the other crunch last-round I-League match.
Though Dudu Omagbemi equalised for East Bengal in the 73rd minute after Felix Chidi gave NEROCA the lead in 42nd minute at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
East Bengal needed to beat second-placed NEROCA and then hope table-toppers Minerva Punjab FC (32 points) don't triumph against relegation-threatened Churchill Brothers.
Arch-rivals Mohun Bagan also had to not win at Gokulam Kerala FC as they have a better head-to-head record against East Bengal.
But at Panchkula, Minerva saw off Churchill 1-0 to bag their maiden title defying all odds while Mohun Bagan were held to a 1-1 draw by Gokulam Kerala FC at Kozhikode.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Mar 08, 2018 19:33 PM