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'League win a passport to Asia'

sports Updated: Apr 28, 2010 00:34 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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Seven points ahead of competition and 12 more than Mohun Bagan, whom they play on Wednesday evening. It's lonely at the top in I-League 3 but Dempo are loving it.

Asked whether the title is theirs to lose, Armando Colaco, Dempo's coach and general-secretary, avoided a direct reply.

"Yes, it's not a bad position to be in. This league has had so many upsets that leading by seven points seems like a luxury," he said.

Dempo lost pole position at least twice but — and this is important — showed the character to regain it promptly. No team has won as many (13 from 22 rounds with 44 points) or scored as much (46 goals). They lost to Mahindra United in the 19th round and to relegation-threatened Salgaocar earlier but are here on the back of three straight wins, against East Bengal, Chirag United and Sporting Clube de Goa.

There is, unlike teams from Kolkata, the added motivation of playing the AFC Cup or the qualifiers of the Asian Champions League.

"That's my only aim to win the league. I don't want to stay confined to the domestic scene. My players understand that too." said Colaco, who guided Dempo to a historic AFC Cup semifinal.

Without left-side midfielder Clifford Miranda and having lost to Bagan twice last season, Colaco though knows winning the 23rd round will be difficult.

Third having played a round less than Dempo, Mohun Bagan skipped training because of the 12-hour bandh that crippled Kolkata on Tuesday.

Both teams have leaked goals too so don't rule out a high-scoring contest.