| Three cheers: Mike Okoro being hugged by S. Malswamtluanga (with ball) and Sasthi Duley after East Bengalís first goal against the Army XI during the Durand Cup final in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi: Tushar Rakshit has not been East Bengalís most favourite son this season spending most of the year in the reserve benches.
However, he turned out to be the ďsaviourĒ for the red-and-gold brigade Friday. Coming in as a 65th minute substitute, he changed the course of the 115th Pepsi Durand Cup final setting up two of the three goals in a space of nine minutes as East Bengal thrashed Army XI 3-0 to win their 15th title.
It was East Bengalís biggest victory in the Durand final since 1978, when they routed Mohun Bagan 3-0. East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick joined the ranks of Syed Nayeemuddin, Sukhwinder Singh, Shabbir Ali and Subrata Bhattacharya, who won the Durand both as a player and coach. Bhowmick won the tournament as player in 1977 with Mohun Bagan.
East Bengalís display Friday can be divided into pre and post Tushar phases. Till his entry, East Bengal had to labour creating just four openings.
With little support from the midfield, Mike Okoro, the Man of the Tournament, had to fall deep or drift wide to the flanks and act as a playmaker. Sasthi Duley was hyperactive, but his final touch was unimaginative. Chandan Das (whom Tushar replaced) was off colour as well.
But after the introduction of Tushar, Okoro could play as an all-out attacker and the balls started to come from the midfield more frequently.
East Bengal, playing 4-4-2, started with Trijit Das and Okoro upfront. Trijit lacked thrust and was replaced by Kaustav Ghosh, who was even more lacklustre. Kulothungan replaced Kaustav in the 70th minute and played some quality football. He excelled in his turning and movements and capped off his efforts setting up a spot-kick for the champions in the 70th minute.
In the 15th minute, Sasthi entered the box dribbling down the left, but quite inexplicably passed back. Just before the breather, Malswamtluanga missed a fine diagonal from Okoro. Early in the second half, Kaustav wasted two chances, delaying his shot and then heading wide.
The opening goal in the 68th minute was a product of a brilliant move and superb execution. Tushar darted down the middle and sent an exquisite diagonal through to Okoro, whose low angular left-footer skimmed into the net.
Seven minutes later, Tuhsar headed to Okoro, who beat his marker on the turn and flicked to Kulothungan lurking on the right. Kulothungan who hails from Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, waltzed to the right and scored with a stunning rising right-footer, the goal of the tournament.
Two minutes later, Kulothungan trapped Malsawmtlungaís cross from the right inside the box, but was tripped by L. Angam Sangai, just as he shaped to shoot. Douglas de Silva, who had a good match as a defensive midfielder scored, even though he had to take the kick twice.
East Bengal: VP Satish Kumar; Surya Bikash Chakraborty, Arun Malhotra, Subashish Roy Chowdhury, Y. Raju Singh; Douglas de Silva, Chandan Das (Tushar Rakshit 65), S. Malsawmtluanga, Sasthi Duley; Trijit Das (Kaustav Ghosh 36, K. Kulothungan 70), Mike Okoro
Army XI: Abungobi Singh; S. Ramesh, S. Ignatius. L. Angan Sangai, Johnny Gangmei, Saroj Gurung, Irudayaraj, Bikash Gurung, Preetam Bahadur, Raghu Kumar, Pradip Debnath
Referee: Binod Kumar Singh (Bihar)
Five most promising players: Syed Rahim Nabi (Mohammedan Sporting), S. Malsawma (Tata Football Academy), Covan Lawrence (Salgaocar), Abungobi Singh (Army XI), Harpreet Singh(JCT)
Player of the Tournament: Mike Okoro (East Bengal)
Top scorer: Mike Okoro (Four goals)
Best coach: Subhas Bhowmick