|Mohammedan Sporting players and support staff celebrate, on Thursday
New Delhi: Mohammedan Sporting ended their Durand Cup drought after 73 years when they scored a 2-1 victory over ONGC in the final at the Ambedkar Stadium here on Thursday.
The last time they won this tournament was in 1940, defeating a British side, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, in the title clash.
Watched by 5000-odd loyal supporters, who came to cheer the team armed with club flags and drums, the black-and-white brigade took a firm grip over the match in the first half itself, scoring both goals before the lemon break.
While Anthony Soren struck the first after Tolgay Ozebe did all the spadework down the left in the 35th minute, the Australian put his name on the score sheet with a stunning strike from outside the box a minute before the breather.
The joy of the Mohammedan Sporting triumph was marred to some extent a few minutes before the final whistle, when their Brazilian defender suffered a dislocation on his right hand while trying to fend off a corner kick in front of his goalmouth.
Given the nature of his injury, Luciano could be out for a considerable period during the I-League.
In hindsight, the absence of Penn Orji proved to be a blessing in disguise for Mohammedan Sporting. As the tournament rules allowed only two foreigners to play in a match, Mohammedan Sporting had mostly used Penn and defender Luciano, keeping Tolgay and Joshimar on the bench.
In the final, however, their coach Abdul Aziz Moshud was forced to play Tolgay after Penn complained of a slight injury. The Aussie striker, who looked slower in the opening tie, took full advantage of the opportunity and emerged as the hero in his team’s historic triumph.
His goal was a classic, a bullet like shot that crashed against the net leaving goalkeeper Bilifang Narzary dazed.
On Thursday, the only time they looked threatened was in the second session with ONGC attacking with renewed vigour. The I-League discards even pulled one back in the 56th minute, when Lavino Fernandes headed in from close after goalkeeper Somnath Khara failed to grip on to a free kick by Asim Hassan. Mohammedan Sporting, however, regrouped well and tokk charge of the midfield.
Mohammedan Sporting’s victory was a hard fought one. With veteran Jatin Bist controlling the midfield, ONGC swarmed the rival goal area in the initial stage.