Calcutta/ Siliguri: Kingfisher East Bengal defeated Churchill Brothers 1-0 in Siliguri to storm into the final of Federation Cup for the fourth consecutive time.
Overall this was their sixteenth entry into the final, having already won the Cup seven times.
The all-important goal was scored by super sub Lalrindika Ralte, who came in place of Harmanjyot Singh Khabra in the 111th minute, with a superb side volley which gave the rival custodian Sandip Nandi hardly any chance to move. The ball was nodded down on Ralte’s path by Penn Orji off a free-kick by Mehtab Hossein.
Interestingly, Ralte was with Churchill Brothers last season.
Minutes later, Churchill’s woes deepened as they were reduced to 10 men after referee Santosh Kumar red-carded Israil Gurung. They dominated in the beginning as East Bengal defence looked rusty and tentative. But as the game wore on, the red and gold brigade slowly got into the groove.
The two teams tried their best to break the deadlock but there was not much penetration from the frontliners.
Churchill did well to mark East Bengal forward Edeh Chidi, who was not let free at all with Lebanese centre back Bilal Najjarin cutting off the Nigerian’s goal-poaching ability on more than one occasion.
Churchill’s talismanic Brazilian Beto too was lacklustre as he got several free-kicks but without any result.
East Bengal had a golden chance in the 58th minute but Churchill Brothers custodian Nandi, playing against his former team, thwarted a Manandeep Singh header off a Saumik Dey delivery.
With eight minutes left for the extra-time and when it looked like the match would be decided through a penalty shootout, the red and gold brigade earned the winner.
A couple of minutes later, Gurung was sent off after he brought down East Bengal captain Sanju Pradhan.
The Goans looked desperate for the equaliser but East Bengal looked all charged-up after scoring the goal and there was no looking back.
For East Bengal Manandeep Singh, Mehtab, Gurwinder Singh, Uga Okpara and Chidi Edeh was booked, while Thangyam Singh and Tomba Singh was booked for Churchill Brothers.