|East Bengalís James Moga in an aerial tussle during their AFC Cup quarter-final tie against Semen Padang, in Padang, on Tuesday. The second-leg match ended 1-1 with Moga scoring the equaliser. East Bengal advanced to the
semi-final with a 2-1 win on aggregate. Picture courtesy: WSG
Padang: South Sudanese striker James Moga struck a gem of a goal as East Bengal created history by becoming the first Calcutta team to reach the AFC Cup semi-finals at Haji Agus Salim Stadium in Padang, on Tuesday.
Needing a draw against Semen Padang in the second leg quarter-final tie, the Calcutta giants did just that — a 1-1 draw against the Indonesian league front-runners that ensured their maiden last-four entry in the continental championship on a 2-1 aggregate. East Bengal are so far unbeaten in their nine matches.
In the first leg played in Calcutta’s Salt Lake Stadium last week, Marcos Falopa’s boys won by a solitary goal scored by Ryuji Sueoka. Goa’s Dempo Sports Club had reached the semi-finals in 2008, but they did not enjoy the unbeaten run like East Bengal.
In the double leg semi-finals to be played on October 1 and 22, East Bengal’s rivals are likely to be defending champions Kuwait Sports Club. Semen Padang, who rarely lose on home turf, threatened to upset East Bengal’s calculations when they took the lead in the 23rd minute through Edward Wilson.
But Moga, coming in as a substitute for injured Sueoka, won the day for East Bengal with a marvellous strike in the 78th minute. In fact, East Bengal’s goal was a combination of fine understanding between the two substitutes — Baljit Sahni and Moga.
Baljit, after receiving a long ball from his own territory, raced down the right and sent a perfect cross at the goalmouth. Moga leapt into the air sharply to head past goalkeeper Jandia Eka Putra.
Tuesday’s achievement on a hot and sultry day here, was yet another addition to East Bengal’s glorious history against foreign clubs. Starting with the 1970 IFA Shield final, when Parimal Dey’s lone strike saw the red-and-gold brigade tame the mighty Iranian side, Pas Club, East Bengal’s finest moment came in their ASEAN triumph on Indonesian soil in 2003.
In between, East Bengal had played some memorable matches against Pyongyang City Club of North Korea in the 1973 IFA Shield final and against Dok Ro Gang in the DCM Cup final in the same season. Dok Ro Gang were packed with North Korean World Cup players and hammered Inder Singh’s Leader Club 7-0 in the semi-final.
Against Padang, East Bengal’s performance did not reach great heights. Still, they could have won the match outright. Firstly, they conceded an unlikely goal and then missed some easy chances.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was the culprit when Padang took the lead. The goalkeeper took a weak and ill-directed goal-kick that landed straight in front of Wilson. The Padang striker, who had already scored 18 goals in the season, covered an unmarked area of 25 yards before slamming the ball home.
Though Moga’s equaliser did bring relief to the East Bengal camp, they should have ended the match as winners. Baljit made another inspired run down the right during the added time and his centre at the goalmouth should have been utilised well by Lalrindika Ralte. But Ralte positioned himself wrongly and missed the opportunity.
Not that the East Bengal goal was never under threat. Padang were good in wing play and operated at high speed. They had the East Bengal defence in all sorts of trouble, but Uga Okpara played the role of a leader to save East Bengal the blushes on more than one occasion.
The supervision of top Saudi Arabian referee Marai Mohammed Alawaji left much to be desired. Early on in the match, it seemed that Edeh Chidi was brought down by the goalkeeper, but the referee had other ideas. As the match progressed, both teams looked surprised by some of his decisions.
The match was doubly special for Joaquim Abrnaches who became the first India player to have played in two AFC Cup semi-finals. Abranches, who played for East Bengal on Tuesday, was also part of the Dempo team that played in the AFC Cup semi-final five years ago.
East Bengal goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal, who was not part of the XI on Tuesday, was also part of Dempo in 2008.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Sandhu; Naoba Singh, Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal and Soumik Dey; Robert Lalthlamuana (Baljit Sahni, 64th), Joaquim Abranches (Gurwinder Singh, 84th), Lalrindika Ralte and Mehtab Hussain; Edeh Chidi and Ryuji Sueoka (James Moga, 43rd).
Semen Padang: Jandia Eka Putra; Novan Setya (Zico Aipa, 84th), Saepuloh Maulana, David Nagan Pagbe and Hengki Ardiles; Edward Wilson (Akbar Ohorella, 48th), Esteban Vizcarra, Yu Hyon Koo and Vendry Ronaldo Mofu; Titus Bonai and Elie Aiboy (Hendra Bayauw, 63rd).
Referee: Marai Mohammed Alawaji (Saudi Arabia).
James Moga’s late equaliser enabled East Bengal hold Semen Padang 1-1, which guaranteed them an AFC Cup semi-final berth. East Bengal, who won the home leg 1-0, thus progressed with a 2-1 aggregate over the Indonesian side.
Here’s a list of some of the key moments of this match in Padang:
v 9th minute: A goal-bound Edeh Chidi tripped inside the penalty area by rival goalkeeper Jandia Eka Putra. Forget awarding a penalty, not even a yellow card was flashed at the ’keeper by referee Marai Mohammed.
v 24th minute: Edward Wilson takes Padang ahead with a left-footer, thanks to a goof-up by East Bengal goalie Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who shot straight to the opposition player.
v 43rd minute: Ryuji Sueoka stretchered off due to a thigh injury, sustained after a collision with ’keeper Jandia while trying to head home a free-kick. James Moga came in as a substitute.
v 48th minute: Wilson leaving the field with an injury brought some relief to the East Bengal defenders.
v 65th minute: Baljit Singh Sahni replaces the mis-firing Robert Lalthlamuana. It helped East Bengal launch more forays into the rival territory.
v 74th minute: Gupreet makes amends with a good save to deny striker Titus Bonai.
v 78th minute: Baljit sets one up for Moga from the right flank and the latter positioned himself perfectly to equalise with a header.
v 90th minute: Gurpreet again fails to grasp a Vendry Mofu attempt from inside the box, but the Padang striker was in an offside position.