Calcutta: The irony of sport is that at times, a win doesn’t always make you a winner. Kingfisher East Bengal suffered a similar fate on Tuesday when they were knocked out of the 35th edition of the Federation Cup despite winning their match.
At the same time, that you don’t necessarily need a victory to sport a smile on the face was proved by McDowell Mohun Bagan when they advanced to the semi-finals even though they didn’t manage a win.
The cities of Manjeri and Kochi, separated by about 200 kms, thus saw the contrasting tales of the Big Two, on Tuesday.
It was definitely heartbreak for East Bengal, the defending champions, to not even qualify for the last four. Having drawn one and won one in their first two outings, Armando Colaco’s team had dug themselves into the pits of uncertainty.
More than their own match, East Bengal surely were more interested with the day’s first Group B encounter between Sporting Clube de Goa and Rangdajied United FC. The Harmanjyot Singh Khabras couldn’t afford a Clube victory as that would take the Goans out of their reach. Unfortunately, their worst fears came true as Clube defeated RUFC 2-0 to aggregate six points from three matches.
So even before the kick-off of their match against Bengaluru FC, all East Bengal hopes were quashed. Instead, the Bangalore side had everything to gain from the match. A win could have earned them 7 points, one more than Clube, and could have taken them to the semis.
But Colaco’s boys didn’t let the frustration of being aimless get the better of them and dished out a thorough professional performance to beat Bengaluru FC, the I-League toppers halfway into the season, 2-0.
East Bengal’s Nigerian striker Edeh Chidi scored a brace, at the MDSC Stadium, in Manjeri, to ensure that their this Federation Cup campaign ended on a winning note.
To be fair, East Bengal were actually lucky to get the victory as the Bangalore side’s Sunil Chetri and Sean Rooney missed second-half spot-kicks. Chidi, on the other hand, made the most of a goal-keeping gaffe to score his first, in the 62nd minute, and then fired a long-ranger in the 75th minute to net his second.
East Bengal, in fact, could have walked away with a three-goal win had Moga’s freekick not hit the crosspiece.
East Bengal’s win ended Bengaluru’s hopes as Clube made the semis from Group B.
Mohun Bagan, however, were in a very different situation before Tuesday’s match. Having won their first two matches, they needed just a draw against Salgaocar to advance to the semi-finals. They, however, couldn’t have afforded a loss as that would have sent Salgaocar to the last-four stage.
There was, however, no setback for the Karim Bencharifa-coached side as they played out a 1-1 draw with Salgaocar, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi.
As a result, they advanced and would now meet Group A toppers Churchill Brothers in the semis.
Bagan’s goal came in the 58th minute. Okolie Odafe side stepped the rival midfield and essayed a long ball for Christopher. But Christopher was brought down inside the box by Salgaocar’s Augustin Fernandes which resulted in a penalty. Odafe didn’t make any mistake from the spot.
Salgaocar’s equaliser came through Bikash Jairu, whose 35-yard left-footer beat Bagan ’keeper Shilton Paul hands down.
Mohammedan Sporting and United SC were already out of the running for a semis berth. So all hopes now rest on Bagan to keep the Federation Cup in the city. Bagan have a fine record, having won the Federation Cup 13 times. Do they have it in them to win their 14th this year?