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Dempo SC crowned I-League champions

Dempo SC - I-League 2011/12 Champions

Goan side Dempo SC have won the I-League 2011/12 title after a 0-0 draw against Kolkata giants East Bengal Club on Friday. The Goans lifted the trophy of India’s top flight for a record breaking fifth time in the club’s history with a total of 54 points out of 25 matches this season.

East Bengal needed a win to keep themselves in contention for the I-League title and coach Trevor Morgan fielded a three-man attack consisting of Tolgay Ozbey, Robin Singh and Edmilson Marques Pardal. But Morgan’s tactical gamble didn’t pay off and Dempo managed to keep a clean sheet.

Edmilson Marques Pardal had the best chance for the visitors, when the Brazilian striker intercepted a pass by Dempo keeper Subhashish Roy Chowdhury to Cressan Antao in the 30th minute. But Edmilson failed in front of the goalmouth and shockingly picked up the side post.

Tolgay Ozbey missed another chance for the Kolkata outfit, when he missed the sitter after a perfectly timed through ball by Mehtab Hussain. Tolgay was once again in the centre of attention in injury time of the first half, when the Australian went down in the Dempo box after a challenge by Rowilson Rodrigues. But the referee called a dive and booked the East Bengal striker.

Dempo had the focus mainly on their defence and relied on counter-attacks today. Ranty Martins Soleye produced the best chance for Armando Colaco’s side from a freekick just to see it hit the crossbar and go wide.

“Winning another I-League title is like climbing the Mount Everest for one more time,” Dempo captain Mahesh Gawli told after the final whistle.

“Dempo is a family club and in real sense, the moment one joins the club, he becomes a family member. ‘Part of the family’ isn’t just a phrase at Dempo. There’s support for the players. The management stays patient and understands the situation without putting any pressure which allows the players the freedom to play with a free mind,” said Mahesh.

Talking about Dempo’s secret behind the success, Mahesh told: “We stress on playing possessional football. The more you keep the ball, the better. After all, in football it’s all about the ball. Keeping possession allows you to be creative and control the pace of the game. That’s also Dempo’s speciality.”

The new I-League champions will face Kolkata’s Prayag United SC at the Saltlake Stadium on May 5 in their final game and they will be presented the I-League Trophy and a cheque of Rs 7 million (70 lakhs).