Aizawl FC won their maiden I-League title on Sunday, defying the odds and capping a remarkable story in just their second season in the league.
All the more remarkable is that Aizawl were relegated to the second division last season, but were reinstated to the top division to make up the numbers after Goa clubs boycotted the league.
It marks a fairytale win for Aizawl who survive on a much smaller budget than rivals including Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC. It is also a personal triumph for coach and former India international Khalid Jamil, who was fired by Mumbai FC last season after seven years in charge.
Aizawl took the title after a well-deserved 1-1 draw against Shillong Lajong FC, and in doing so became the first club from the north-east to win the I-League title.
— Hero I-League (@ILeagueOfficial) April 30, 2017
Needing just a draw to secure the title over Mohun Bagan, Aizawl were dealt a blow when Lajong took the lead in just the ninth minute when Asier Pierrick Dipanda netted with a header.
But Aizawl staged a recovery and went onto dominate the game, before William Lalnunfela scored the crucial goal, netting the equaliser in the 67th minute to send the visiting fans into raptures.
A day earlier, East Bengal’s had thrashed Mumbai FC 4-0 to secure third spot in the table while last year’s defeated AFC Cup finalists Bengaluru finished in fourth position.