| Rajat Ghosh Dastidar is the toast of Salgaocar teammates after effecting two saves in the penalty shootout against East Bengal in the Durand Cup final in New Delhi on Monday . Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi: History has an uncanny way of repeating itself. Four years ago, Salgaocar held their nerve and beat East Bengal 3-2 in the penalty shootout to win their first Durand Cup title. On Monday in the 116th edition of the meet, the Goans survived repeated onslaughts from East Bengal to stretch the match to the penalties after regulation and extra time ended at 1-1.
In the ensuing penalty shootout Salgaocar came from behind to win 4-3 and lift the Durand Cup for the second time. It was Savio Madeira’s first major trophy as coach and Salgacaor’s first trophy outside Goa in the new millennium.
Ironically for East Bengal, star strikers Mike Okoro and Bhaichung Bhutia not only squandered sitters but in the shootout, their feeble efforts were saved by the former Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar. For coach Subash Bhowmick, it was another jolt after the ASEAN Cup triumph in July.
Starting with the IFA Shield, this is the second trophy the East Bengal coach has lost in tie-breaker this year. It has been a roller-coaster ride for him in 2003. On January 10, he won his first major trophy as coach, annexing the 115th Durand meet.
Then came some unprecedented success, the IFA Shield, the National Football League and the ASEAN Cup. And after that in a space of three months, East Bengal have missed out on the Federation Cup, IFA Shield and this edition of the Durand Cup. The doubting Thomases are now raising awkward questions.
Later, Bhowmick said his team was robbed by poor supervision. His allegation is justified, because East Bengal were seemingly denied a penalty and a ‘golden goal’ by some strange decisions.
The Calcutta champions should have forged ahead in the first major attack of the match. Okoro snatched the ball from a fumbling Prashant Jaggi and sped goalwards. The Salgaocar back four was static. Okoro tried to evade the goalkeeper but fell over Rajat’s outstretched leg. It seemed a certain penalty and maybe even a red card for the Salgaocar goalkeeper. But the referee felt that Okoro was simulating a trip.
Okoro was in the thick of things again in the 27th minute. Latching onto a loose clearance from a corner, Sur Kumar Singh’s angular grounder was only partially foiled by Rajat. The ball fell invitingly to Okoro who shot wide.
Even the icon of Indian football, Bhaichung Bhutia, a second half substitute, missed from two yards in the 55th minute. For once S. Malsawmtluanga evaded his marker Raghui Singh and crossed to the far post, K. Kulothungan nodded across, and from two yards Bhaichung delayed only to be foiled by Jaggi.
Overall it was a final of midfield attrition and limited chances. So the three sitters missed by East Bengal proved costly. The rub of the green did not go East Bengal’s way either. In the 104th minute, Chandan Das took a free-kick from the right and Debjit Ghosh headed goalwards. Okoro who was running from behind, apparently made amends and headed into the net. But assistant referee N. Mohan ruled off-side.
It was not a final for the grandchildren. Most of the action was confined to midfield, goalmouth drama and scoring chances were limited. Salgaocar played 4-5-1 and East Bengal 3-5-2, with Debjit Ghosh being used as sweeper for the first time. Musah shackled Felix and Sasthi Duley checked Tomba Singh. Salgaocar’s Nigerian defender Bello Rasaq marked Okoro and Raghui stuck to Malsawmtluanga like a leech.
The second half was more open. Salgaocar scored from a free-kick, needlessly conceded by a lunging Sur Kumar outside the 18-yard box. Tomba curled it over the wall into the net. East Bengal struck back with vengeance. Okoro crossed from right and an onrushing Mahesh Gawli soared above his markers to head in.
In the penalty shootout, Climax Lawrence, Tomba, Dharamjit singh and Felix scored for Salgaocar. Jatin Bisht’s try went over. For East Bengal, Musah, Chandan and Malsawmtluanga converted the first three penalty kicks before Bhaichung and Okoro’s tries were saved.
Salgoacar: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, Mickey Fernandez, Prasant Jaggi, Roberto Fernandez, Bello Rasaq, Tomba Singh, Climax Lawrence, Dharamjit Singh, Jatin Bisht, Raghui Singh (Bernard Pires, 118), Felix Ibrebru.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee, Sur Kumar Singh, Suley Musah, Debjit Ghosh, Mahesh Gawli, S. Malsawmtluanga, Chandan Das, K. Kulothungan (Alvito D’Cunha, 81), Sasthi Duley, Subash Chakraborty (Bhaichung Bhutia, 54), Mike Okoro.
Referee: S.M. Balu (Karnataka).
Five promising players: Vimal Pariyar (TFA), Stanley Colaco (Dempo), Abdul Rauf Khan (Mahindra), Dharamjit Singh (Salgaocar), K. Kulothungan (Easte Bengal). Best coach: Bimal Ghosh (Air India).