| Mohammedan Sporting’s Amandeep Singh foils a scoring attempt by Saroj Gurung of Army XI during their Durand Cup semi-final in Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI)
New Delhi: It was heartbreak time for Mohammedan Sporting. They were so near and yet so far from reaching the final of the 115th Pepsi Durand football tournament.
Leading 1-0 till 30 seconds from the final whistle, Mohammedan Sporting needlessly conceded a free-kick and allowed Army XI to equalise. In a dramatic penalty shoot-out, the Calcutta team lost 3-5 to lose the match 4-6.
The unfancied Army XI thus won their maiden entry to the Durand final. They will meet the winners of East Bengal and Salgaocar in Friday’s semi-final.
Mohammedan Sporting was the dominating side but Army XI’s tenacity and will to fight finally prevailed over the guile of the Calcutta team. They committed hara-kiri.
Dipendu Biswas scored with a gem of a header in the 87th minute and Mohammedan Sporting had to just kill time. The fourth referee allowed four minutes as added-on time.
Substitute Amjad Ansari injudiciously brought down Pradip Debnath to foil an innocuous attack from the left which resulted in a free-kick. The Mohammedan Sporting defence stood static as Saroj Debnath sneaked in to knock home the equaliser.
To add to the Calcutta club’s woes Amit Das limped off in extra time and Mohammed Habeeb made his third substitution.
This meant Mohammedan Sporting could not field the experienced Prasanta Dora under the bar for the shootout and Imran Khan was too impulsive.
The young ’keeper moved before the kicks were taken, allowing the Army shooters to comfortably convert all five kicks.
Debnath, Gurung, S. Ignatius, Irudayaraj and Raghu Kumar found the mark. Mohammedan Sporting’s Amandeep Singh’s first shot was saved by Abungobi Singh, while Abdulateef Seriki and substitutes Arjan Ali and Arunava Sarkar were on target.
Habeeb complained the four officials were the worst he had seen in his life. The supervision levels were mediocre and Mohammedan Sporting were victims of some dicey decisions.
Both assistant referees were error prone in their off-side verdicts. Mohammedan Sporting attackers were frequently wrongly flagged as Army XI employed the off-side trap.
But despite that, Mohammedan Sporting dominated proceedings and wasted several easy chances. In the 22nd minute, Syed Rahim Nabi sent a low cross from the left to Bhuvan Joshi, whose late left-footer was cleared from the line by Ignatius.
Following a corner, Biswanath Mondal’s stinging right-footer from outside the box was palmed to safety by goalkeeper Abungobi. Later, Nabi ran onto a through pass but chested the ball straight to the Army XI goalkeeper.
Midway through the second half, Mohammedan Sporting applied sustained pressure. Seriki and Dipendu’s tries were saved by a diving goalkeeper. Once off a rebound, Nabi pushed into the side netting from the edge of the six-yard box.
The goal was excellent. Bishwanath took a deep free-kick and Dipendu out-jumped his markers and headed into the far corner of the net. Only, it was not enough
Army XI: Abungobi Singh; Ajay Kumar (Bikash Gurung, 25, Skylab Dey, 115), S. Ignatius, L. Angam Sangai, S. Ramesh; Saroj Gurung, Johnny Gangmei, Irudayaraj, Pritam Bahadur (Thirunavakarsu, 80); Raghu Kumar, Pradip Debnath.
Mohammedan Sporting: Imran Khan; Biswanath Mondal, Insaan Ali, Hussain Mustafi, Amandeep Singh; Bhuvan Joshi, Habib Adekunle (Arjan Ali, 67), Amit Das (Arunava Sarkar, 112), Syed Rahim Nabi (Amjad Ansari, 85); Dipendu Biswas, Abdulateef Seriki.
Referee: P.K. Bose (Madhya Pradesh).