| Douglas da Silva (white shirt) leads the East Bengal players in celebrating their victory over Mohun Bagan in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi: East Bengal captain Chandan Das could not have asked for a more fitting present ahead of his wedding than the Durand Cup. Moreover, both goals came from his feet as 10-man East Bengal defeated Mohun Bagan 2-1 to claim the Durand title for the 16th time on Wednesday.
Chandan, who is getting married on November 17, scored a goal in each half, a 22nd minute penalty and an injury time dream goal. He became the second player after Mohammed Habib (1970) to score two goals in an East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan Durand final. The captain also finished top-scorer for his club with four goals.
It was the red-and-gold outfit's first title of the season. And with this win they also revenged themselves, having lost the Durand final the last time they clashed in 1994.
East Bengal custodian Rajat Ghosh Dastidar joined a select group of players to have won the Durand with three different clubs (Mohun Bagan 2000, Salgaocar 2003 and East Bengal 2004).
Others who have achieved the feat include Peter Thangaraj, Syed Nayeemuddin, Shyam Thapa, I.M. Vijayan and Jo Paul Ancheri.
Ironically last season, the national champions had to submit to Rajat, who stopped two penalties off Bhaichung Bhutia and Mike Okoro in the shoot-out to help Salgaocar win the Durand title 4-3.
And once again he turned out to be the hero. He brought about some brilliant saves to stop the green-and-maroon players who were threatening to run away with the game at one point of time.
It was a triumph of character and passion for the champions. East Bengal did not play fluent attacking football but still managed to grind out a result. East Bengal's intentions were clear, stop Bagan's attacking midfielders and then move up on the counter.
But, when Madhab was shown the red card (following two bookable offences) in the 75th minute, Mohun Bagan held sway. And it was during this period that they scored the equaliser. A free-kick by Noel Wilson was unfortunately headed into his own goal by Douglas da Silva in the 76th minute with the 'keeper stranded.
The red-and-gold players benefited with the return of coach Subhas Bhowmick, who joined the team only on Tuesday night. Down by a man, he marshalled his men well to finally come up triumphs.
Earlier, the coach made an important switch, replacing Selwyn Fernandez, who was suffering from stomach upset, with Climax Lawrence just after the breather. And it was Climax's final touch that paved way for Chandan to secure the winner.
Jeremiah trapped a long clearance and drifted to the left before squaring on to Climax at the edge of the box. Climax held on and then squared it to Chandan, who was darting in on the right side of the box. From an acute angle, Chandan let fly a blistering, rising right-footer which bulged the far corner of the net.
Bagan were let down by their foreign imports. Striker James Ugwo could not cope with the pressure of a derby match and Eduardo Coelho got injured. Both had to be replaced within 40 minutes. Coelho's absence in defence was a big blow to the team.
It was Noel Wilson's error in the 22nd minute that led to East Bengal's opening goal. A corner was played short and Shylo Malsawmtluanga floated a cross to the far post. Douglas headed across the goal. Bagan defenders panicked and failed to clear the ball out of the box. Alvito D'Cunha, rushing in to take a shot was nudged from behind by Noel and referee P.K. Bose promptly awarded a penalty which Chandan converted.
The final was a battle of attrition, with lots of niggling fouls. Referee Bose struggled to keep control of proceedings. There was a fracas midway through the second half, when Bagan custodian Subrata Paul raced down the field to strike Jeremiah who had clashed with Noel. Both Subrata and Noel were shown yellow cards.
Meanwhile, the Durand committee felicitated five promising players in the tournament. Narendra Meetei (striker, Air India), T. Abdul Basheer (defender, SBT), Subrata Paul (goalkeeper, Mohun Bagan), Sukhjinder Singh (midfielder, JCT) and L. Mark Fernandez (midfielder, TFA).
East Bengal: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, Akshay Das (Bijen Singh 85), Debjit Ghosh, Madhab Das, Selwyn Fernandez (Climax Lawrence 52), Habibur Rehman Mondal, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Douglas da Silva, Chandan Das, Alvito D'Cunha and Ernest Jeremiah.
Mohun Bagan: Subrata Paul, Manitombi Singh, Dulal Biswas, Eduardo Coelho (Tomba Singh 40), Rishi Kapoor, Mehtab Hussain, Noel Wilson, Basudeb Mondal, Dharamjit Singh (Jerry Zirsanga 66), James Ugwo (Ashim Biswas 40) and Sunil Chhetri
Referee: P.K. Bose (Madhya Pradesh)