| East Bengalís Douglas de Silva and Trijit Das press for an equaliser against Madras Engineering Group in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi: East Bengal goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee had a horrible last season and he found himself out of the first XI. Finally, after making a comeback, he let his team down once again as East Bengal crashed to a 0-1 defeat against unfancied Madras Engineering Group (MEG) Bangalore in the 115th Pepsi Durand Cup match Monday.
However, the loss (third of the season) did not cost the glamour outfit a place in the last four as they qualified as the top team from the group with a superior goal difference.
East Bengal will play Salgaocar, Goa, who beat Assam Regimental Centre 3-0, in the second semi-final Wednesday. The Goa side maintained their all-win record as Nigerian striker Dudu Omagbemi scored the first hattrick of the tournament. Omagbemi, the MoM, scored in the 12th, 53rd and 58th minutes.
With a semi-final berth almost assured, East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick was in the mood to experiment. He made four changes that routed Air India 4-0. Sangram replaced V. Satish Kumar while Trijit Das and Gilmar Goncalves started in places of Kaustav Ghosh and Mike Okoro upfront and Soumitra Chakraborty replaced Malsawmtluanga in the midfield.
In the 59th minute, central midfielder Douglas de Silva conceded a free kick near the corner flag on the right. MEG right-back Sayeed floated it in and Sangram inexplicably let it slip through his fingers. The ball fell invitingly for MEG skipper Ajith Kumar who gently headed the ball in. Rated as the best in India in 2001, Sangram has really fallen from grace and his performance Monday did him no good.
East Bengal, however, missed a number of scoring chances. In the 23rd minute, Sashthi Duley reversed to Gilmar from the right but the Brazilianís low angled right footer was saved by a diving custodian Robi Kanta Singh.
Nine minutes hence, Gilmarís measured cross from the left was headed by Duley onto the post. In the second half Trijit wasted two sitters, once shooting over and then a glancing header going wide. In the closing minutes, Chandan missed the target from close.
MEG Bangalore: Robi Kanta Singh, Sayeed, Arun Kumar Singh, Samy Alagar, Dangi Singh, Rajesh Kumar Singh (Nurul Alam), Sankar Chetri, Sudhir, Jiten Meitei, Ngverni Lal, Ajith Kumar
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee, Surya Bikash Chakraborty, Subashish Roy Chowdhury (Tushar Rakshit 72), Arun Malhotra, Y. Raju Singh, Sasthi Duley(Jiten Rai 72), Chandan Das, Douglas de Silva, Soumitra Chakraborty (S. Malsawmtlunga 41), Gilmar Gonsalves.
Referee: Abdul Saleem (Delhi).
Tuesdayís match: Semi-Final: Mohameddan Sporting vs Army XI.