| Sandip Nandy, the villain and hero of the piece
Calcutta: It wasn’t a match East Bengal should have taken to penalties. Rarely does a team stretch a contest to the limit after dominating their rivals so comprehensively for a better part of the match.
“It was a tough match but we should have finished it off well before than we eventually did. We got so many chances in the second half but didn’t utilise them,” star striker Bhaichung Bhutia told The Telegraph from Jakrata on Thursday, shortly after East Bengal beat Petrokimia Putra 8-7 (1-1 after extra time) to make the ASEAN Club Championship final.
He sounded unusually subdued after the sensational win, which for the first time put an Indian club in the final of a tournament of such stature.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Bhutia. “We didn’t do anything sensat-ional, played our normal game and worked hard together.”
“Also, luck was on our side. That is important, you need a bit of that to win crunch matches.”
Bhutia refused to pick any one for standing out on what has been a red-letter day for Indian football. “I won’t pick anybody. East Bengal, the team, was the winner.”
It was a mixed bag of sorts for goalkeeper Sandip Nandy. The goalkeeper made a silly mistake which helped the Indonesian team take the lead, came up with some superb aerial collections, committed another error that nearly resulted in a goal.
But to cap an eventful day in office, Nandy made a crucial save on the 16th shot of the marathon shootout to lead East Bengal into the final.
It wasn’t a great save, but under pressure, with almost all the penalties going in, it was invaluable.
Nandy, a National League winner with both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, has been a regular in the East Bengal starting line-up this season, pushing international Sangram Mukherjee to the reserve bench.