Durand Cup: 10-man Mohun Bagan crowned champions

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A 10-man Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG), reversed their group-stage result over arch city-rivals Emami East Bengal (EEB), defeating them 1-0 in the final of the 132nd IndianOil Durand Cup, to be crowned champions. Dimitri Petratos struck the winner in the 71st minute, after Anirudh Thapa was sent off for a second bookable offence, early in the second-half. There was nothing much to choose between the two sides save the Petratos strike, in an entertaining final at the hallowed Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), here in the city, which had close to 50,000 fans watching.

A tactical game

Both gaffers sprung surprises with the first eleven. Carles Cuadrat of EEB gave Md. Rakip a first-start in the tournament, while Juan Ferrando of MBSG kept Manvir, who has had a good campaign, on the bench, while starting with both his foreign forwards Dimitri Petratos and Armando Sadiku, upfront.

It was clear that Cuadrat wanted the extra help on the wings with Mandar Rao Desai on the left and Harmanjot Khabra on the right playing ahead of three central defenders, whereas Ferrando adopted a more regular 4-4-2, preferring his wing-backs Ashique Kuruniyan and Ashish Rai to do that job. The bigger surprise came from EEB after the whistle however, when both Nandhakumar and. Mahesh began on the left, albeit for the initial few minutes only.

Goalless first-half

Ashique won the game’s first corner for MBSG withing the first five minutes, however not much came off it. A similar fate awaited EEB when they got theirs a few minutes later. There was nothing to choose between the two in the first quarter of an hour. Left was the preferred attacking flank for both teams, with Ashique of MBSG and Mahesh of EEB being the prime movers of such attacks.

Then just after the water-break, Jordan Elsey seemed to have twisted his ankle and Cuadrat had to replace him with Jose Antonio Pardo at the back.

With just a couple of minutes to go, the half’s two best chances fell to both teams. First when a cross by Borja meant for Siverio’s head fell for Nandhakumar, but the winger failed to keep his shot on target. Then Dimitri Petratos unleashed a brilliant strike from the top of the EEB box, but also just missed his target.

The half ended equal, not only in terms of no team scoring a goal, but also in terms of both getting an equal number of bookings, with Saul Crespo and Borja for the red and golds and Hugo Boumos and Thapa for the green and maroons going into the referee’s book in the final stages.

Petratos breaks the deadlock

Cuadrat made his second change in the 57th minute of the game, when he brought on the experience and guile of Brazilian Cleiton Silva in place of Borja. Ferrando responded with Manvir Singh in place of Ashish Rai.

The Punjabi winger created an immediate chance on the hour-mark for Boumous, but the Frenchman shot wide from close.

Another critical moment of the match then happened when Anirudh Thapa was sent-off for a high boot on Saul Crespo, his second bookable offence of the match.

In the 69th minute, Ferrando made a triple change, bringing on Australian World Cupper Jason Cummings, Liston Colaco and Glan Martins in place of Boumous, Sadiku and Ashique.

It brought them luck in 71st minute and how. Dimitri Petratos, MBSG’s Greek forward, received the box in transition, just inside the EEB half and kept advancing towards goal without much challenge from the right-hand side. He then unleashed a left-footed diagonal along the ground from just outside the box. It was perfectly placed as the ball took a bad bounce to elude the outstretched palm of Prabhsukan Gill and go in. The deadlock was broken and the MBSG fans went into a frenzy, as Petratos rushed towards a section of them to celebrate.

In the 78th minute, Cuadrat effected a triple-change himself, bringing on Nishu Kumar, VP Suhair and Edwin Vanspaul, in place of Chungnunga, Siverio and Rakip. Then in the 87th, Ferrando made his final move, consolidating his defense by bringing on Brendan Hamill in place of Sahal Abdul Samad.

Worthy champions

Try as they might, the red and golds could not break the MBSG defence and MBSG were crowned worthy champions. They had suffered just one reverse in the tournament, whom they beat in the final and had beaten such top teams as Mumbai City FC and FC Goa enroute.

The Prizes

A glittering prize distribution ceremony followed the game, just as a vibrant opening programme had preceded it. Dr. CV Ananda Bose, Hon. Governor of West Bengal awarded the President’s Cup to the winners, while Gen. Anil Chauhan PVSM UYSM AVSM SM VSM, Chief of Defence Staff, awarded the Simla Trophy. The Durand Cup, the original prize was handed over by Shri. Aroop Biswas, Hon. Minister in Charge of Sports and Youth Affairs, Power and Housing, Government of West Bengal.

Among the other prize winners of the day were:

Golden Boot (Highest scorer)– David Lalhlansanga-six goals (Mohammedan Sporting)

Golden Gloves– Prabhsukan Gill (Emami East Bengal)

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