| Dipankar Roy (left) and Douglas da Silva after piloting East Bengal to the IFA Shield final at the Salt Lake Stadium on Friday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Victory tastes sweet. And still Friday’s 2-0 win in the Chlor-Mint IFA Shield semi-final against Ever-Ready left a sour tinge in East Bengal’s mouth.
The jubilation in the East Bengal camp after the authoritative win under the Salt Lake Stadium lights got subdued after Douglas da Silva picked up his second yellow card of the tournament which ruled him out of Sunday’s final against Mohun Bagan.
The Brazilian scored the first goal in Friday’s semi-final and also won the Man of the Match award for another workmanlike yet supremely effective performance in midfield. In the end, there were tears in his eyes instead of satisfaction as he trudged back to the dressing room.
It was a solid performance by East Bengal, devoid of frills and full of power and purpose. Though there were hardly 5000 to watch, Subhas Bhowmick’s team produced a show befitting heavyweights and could have garlanded the Ever-Ready hopefuls with goals, especially after half-time.
There was this hint of challenge in Ever-Ready’s showing in the first half. They did adopt a defensive approach with most men behind the ball and kept the penalty area crowded, but forced the odd chance too.
In the very third minute Suley Musah and Dipak Mondal made a mess of a routine clearance, gifting dangerman Ernest Jeremiah possession just outside the penalty box. Probably surprised by the ‘favour’, the Nigerian failed to wrest control.
Then in the 23rd minute, Jeremiah got hold of a ball from the deep, ran into the box and after realising it would be difficult to escape the challenge of Dipak, played the ball onto an unmarked Eugene Grey. This time, Grey missed what was arguably the easiest chance of the day.
But East Bengal had well and truly settled into a rhythm by now. Musah was spared the duty of partnering striker Bijen Singh and back in his usual defending self. And how well did he do that! The East Bengal captain marked, stalked, harried and completely bottled up Jeremiah, rarely allowing him a touch on the ball after the initial forays.
After a couple of half-chances and a free header that Dipankar Roy missed in the 14th minute, East Bengal struck at the half-hour mark. Bijen chipped the ball at goalmouth following a corner from the left and despite being surrounded by three defenders inside the six-yard box, Douglas won a header. Goalkeeper Kalyan Chowbey was also to blame since he didn’t leave his line.
Chowbey, who also effected a couple of good saves in the second half, erred again in the 54th minute. Douglas’ telling pass from inside his half found Dipankar on the left and after running in, the medio placed the ball to the near post, which should have been better covered by the goalkeeper.
This ended the match as a contest and it was East Bengal all over the rival area with both flanks functioning smoothly. There could easily have been three or four goals more, but fortune spared Ever-Ready the embarrassment.
It was not that lucky for East Bengal, though, as Douglas was rightly shown the yellow for a tackle on Sankha Roy Chowdhury. It could well turn out to be the defining moment of the competition.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee; Dipak Mondal, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Suley Musah; Sur Kumar Singh, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Douglas da Silva, Sashti Duley, Dipankar Roy (Subhas Chakraborty, 70); K. Kulothungan (Chandan Das, 76), Bijen Singh.
Ever-Ready: Kalyan Chowbey; Rajib Ahmed (Sankha Roy Chowdhury, 68), Wajid Ali, Surajit Chakraborty, Bimal Sarkar; Jayanta Sen, Dulal Biswas, Mohammed Rafique (Satyajit Bose, 85), Sujit Ghosh (Surajit Chakraborty, 61); Eugene Grey, Ernest Jeremiah.
Referee: Dinesh Nair (Gujarat).