By virtue of their seven successive wins – and being the most consistent team in the division overall – Jamshedpur FC claimed their maiden League Winners Shield on Monday night. Owen Coyle’s men beat immediate challengers ATK Mohun Bagan by a goal to nil: a goal that came in the second half through a resurgent Ritwik Das, who, until a few weeks ago, had never scored in the Indian Super League. Das finished with four goals to his name – his fourth, to date, being the most valuable for his current side.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the champions-elect. Instead, Jamshedpur conceded the larger share of possession to their opponents, who came flying out of the blocks and created a few good early openings for themselves.
The best of those fell to Joni Kauko, but the midfielder’s shot from inside the box was blocked heroically by JFC captain Peter Hartley. The Red Miners grew into the game, thereafter; Daniel Chima Chukwu relieved some of that early pressure at the other end by drawing a fine stop out of Amrinder Singh.
Jamshedpur took the lead in the 56th minute. Once again, talisman Greg Stewart was involved in the build-up; the Scotsman ran inside from the right, drawing defenders to himself before attempting a shot at goal from range – that was blocked. But, the ball fell kindly for Das inside the box, and the youngster beat Amrinder with a composed first-time finish.
The chances of a late-season switch at the top diminished henceforth. ATK Mohun Bagan needed to beat the league leaders by a margin of two goals to overtake them in the table, but their attempts to restore parity first hit several stumbling blocks.
In the end, the Red Miners held onto their narrow lead to see out the win and claim their maiden League Winners Shield. Their season isn’t over yet, as they face fourth-placed Kerala Blasters in the two-legged playoff semi-finals next.