KOLKATA: East Bengal reached the 132nd Durand Cup final, defeating NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) 5-3 on penalties in the first semifinal after the match ended 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes of regulation time.
After stunning the home side at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) with two strikes on either side of half-time, the Emami East Bengal (EEB) struck late in the game and then again in added time to take the game to penalties.
Parthib Gogoi missed his penalty, despite getting two bites of the cherry, as the Red and Golds scored all five to make yet another Durand Cup final.
The 16-time champions now await the winners of the second semifinal between Mohun Bagan Super Giant and FC Goa on Thursday, to know who meets them in the final on September 3.
The home side made the first attempt at the quarter-hour mark when a Pardo attempted from a distance, but Mirshad, the Highlanders keeper was up to it and brought about a full-length diving save.
The Highlanders responded and took the lead off a corner. The corner taken by Phalguni Singh was cleared away by Elsey but found its way back to him from Tondomba. A measured delivery inside the box saw central defender Miguel dive in front of the six-yard box and deflect a header away from a full-stretch Prabhsukan Gill and into the EEB goal.
In the second half, East Bengal were more probing with Naorem Mahesh Singh
and Mandar Desai creating most of the forays from the left flank. But the goal came yet again for the Highlanders and Phalguni this time scored himself with a brilliant solo goal.
From a free kick which Phalguni himself had taken, the EEB defense cleared the ball away but only as far as Tondomba again in the middle of the park, who relayed it back to Phalguni on the right flank.
The diminutive winger drove in with deft outside and inside dodges and then executed a clinical finish with his left, placing it past Gill, who was beaten on the dive for a second time.
At the hour-mark, Cuadrat went into full-attack mode, bringing on Cleiton Silva and Gursimrat in place of defenders Khabra and Elsey. Benali too made a double change, resting Phalguni and Manvir and bringing on Thoi Singh and Gani Nigam in their stead.
EEB then got a goal back with just over 10 minutes to go in the game, when Naorem Mahesh Singh’s shot on target from inside the Highlanders’ box, took a deflection off Dinesh Singh to wrong-foot Mirshad and went in.
The drama was yet to unfold as right after Miguel was sent off for a second bookable offence in added time, EEB struck from the resulting free-kick.
Borja took it and aimed at Siverio on the right of goal but his header was warded off by Mirshad and it fell on the other side for Cleiton Silva. The Brazilian looked up and crossed for Nandhakumar, whose well-directed header beat Mirshad. It was time for the first-ever penalty shoot-out of the tournament.
Cleiton scored from the first spot-kick and so did his countryman Ibson for the Highlanders. Crespo also calmly converted EEB’s second from the spot and so did Gani for the visitors.
Borja was next for the red and golds and even he converted but Parthib Gogoi then missed twice. First, after Gill had saved his shot and then a second time he hit the bar, when he got another chance after Gill was adjudged to have crossed the goal line before Parthib’s first shot.
Mahesh Singh maintained EEB’s 100% record with their fourth and Pragyan Gogoi also converted, leaving Nandhakumar with the responsibility of converting the fifth to reach a record 27th final and he duly obliged. IANS
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