| Action during the Durand Cup tie between Mahindra United and Salgaocar in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi: In a pacy, end-to-end-action match Friday, Salgaocar rallied to oust Mahindra United 2-1 in their 116th Durand football tournament semi-final here. This victory put Salgaocar in the final for the second time.
The last time Salgaocar were in the final, in 1999, they had beaten East Bengal via the tie-breaker to win the title. And with East Bengal favoured versus Air India tomorrow, the final line-up could again be the same.
The match was billed as the clash of the midfielders. Federation Cup champions Mahindra United boast Jules Alberto, Khaled Jameel and S. Venkatesh with Salgaocar show younger feet in Tomba Singh, Climax Lawrence and Jatin Bisht. Salgaocar coach Savio Madeira opted for the 4-5-1 system to bolster his midfield. Bisht functioned ahead of his line and behind Felix Ibrebru. That allowed more mobility to the tireless Tomba Singh (Man of the Match), Dharamjit Singh, Ragui Singh and Climax.
Mahindra medios went for the long balls. In the final count, though, Salgaocar midfielders prevailed. Mahindra United’s Ghanaian Felix Aboagye sped down the right and from the right edge of the box his low left-footer bulged the netting. Early in the second half, Mahindra were on the rampage. Venkatesh blazed over and then had a stiff shot saved by Rajat Ghosh Dastidar.
In two dramatic minutes just before the hour, the match got completely altered. In the 59th minute Tomba Singh’s diagonal found Ragui in space down the left. Ragui’s low cross was trapped by Felix Ibrebru who on the turn beat Tapan Ghosh and placed past Naseem Akhtar.
A minute later came the unkindest cut of all for the Mumbai league champions. Sanjay Parte was shown the yellow card for body checking the darting Tomba. That was his second booking. In the 28th minute he had been booked for tackling Dharamjeet Singh from behind. With Parte’s departure, Mahindra were outnumbered and outclassed.
With their nippy midfielders in full throttle Salgaocar were now on the rampage. Tomba on the turn volleyed over.
In the 73rd minute, Salgaocar’s sheer persistence paid off. Tomba’s diagonal put Felix through. Naseem Akhtar hesitated to advance and narrow the angle. Felix’s first try was partially blocked, but an onrushing Dharamjit snapped onto the rebound and scored even as left back Abdul Rauf Khan made a desperate attempt to save on the line.
Salgaocar: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, Mickey Fernandez, Prashant Jaggi, Roberto Fernandez, Bello Rasak, Tomba Singh, Climax Lawrence, Jatin Bisht (Samson Singh 90), Dharamjit Singh (Bernard Pires, 85), Ragui Singh and Felix Ibrebru (Freddy Mascarenhas, 86)
Mahindra United: Naseem Akhtar, Tapan Ghosh (Syed Altafuddin, 63), Covan Lawrence, Arun Malhotra, Abdul Rauf Khan, Sanjay Parte, Jules Alberto (Steven Dias, 63), Khaled Jameel (James Singh, 80), S. Venkatesh, Raphel Patron and Felix Aboagye.
Referee: Subrata Sarkar (Bengal)
Saturday’s semi-final: East Bengal vs Air India