Kolkata: September 30
Salgaocar dashed East Bengal’s hopes of winning a hat-trick of titles as they cruised to a 3-1 victory in the final of the 33rd Federation Cup football tournament on Thursday. Edeh Chidi (5′) and Francis Fernandes (19′) gave Salgaocar a 2-0 lead early into the first half before substitute Ryuji Sueoka (66′) finished the issue much ahead of regulation time, to hand the Goans the title after a gap of 14 years. Cheered on by a boisterous crowd, East Bengal rode on Alan Gow’s 25th minute strike from the spot but, without their inspirational midfielder Mehtab Hussain who lasted less than five minutes, they could not match the reigning I-League champions.
If it was a complete tactical failure for East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan, for his counterpart Karim Bencherifa the win was really special as the Moroccan has just tasted a ‘double’, winning both the I-League and Federation Cup in the same calendar year. Bencherifa, who had coached Mohun Bagan to the title three years ago, thus guided Salgaocar to their fourth Federation Cup title after a gap of 14 years. It was against the same side and at the same venue Salgaocar, who were also champions in 1988 and 1989, had won the national knockout title in 1997. The chinks in Morgan’s armoury were exposed early on when his bold move to bring on a half-fit Mehtab Hussain backfired.
The Englishman’s overdependence on the injured Hussain came to the fore when he named him in the starting line-up, but the central midfielder could last only four minutes. Hussain could not withstand an aerial challenge as he had to be taken off heavily strapped as Morgan was forced to field winger Sanju Pradhan in the unusual position. No sooner than Hussain was substituted, Salgaocar fired in the lead in a move created from a short freekick in the midfield. Elijah Junior supplied the ball to Biswajit Saha before Chidi, with a magical piece of work, left East Bengal’s Harmanjot clueless.
Salgaocar added to East Bengal’s misery when Fernandes finished brilliantly from a solo run from the right flank. Fernandes beat Saumik Dey and Raju Gaikwad on his run before shooting it directly to East Bengal custodian Sandip Nandy who could not hold the ball as he scored from the return in a superb display of improvisation. Down 0-2 in the first 20 minutes, in front of thousands of home supporters, East Bengal found themselves in a total disarray. Desperately needing a divine intervention, East Bengal benefited after being awarded a penalty when Luciano Sabrosa brought down Orji Penn inside the box, pulling his jersey in a 23rd minute move. East Bengal’s Scottish signing Gow easily converted from to bring much-needed relief in the local camp. The seven-time champions had a great chance to turn the tide in their favour at the stroke of half time, but Robin Singh made a mess of it. Sanju Pradhan’s cross found Singh on the edge of the goalmouth but the lanky Delhi youngster failed to guide the ball in. Singh continued with his woeful run as he once again missed after the changeover, heading away a fine Sanju centre. Those two misses proved too costly in the end as Bencherifa’s boys soon made it 3-1 to virtually seal the issue. Two back to back substitutions by Bencherifa in the 60th minute, when he brought on former Mohun Bagan midfielder Sueoka (in place of Elijah Junior) and Gilbert Oliveira (Ishfaq Ahmed), paid dividends. Familiar to the conditions, Sueoka soon made his presence felt as he took five minutes to drive the last nail in East Bengal’s coffin. Another Kolkata veteran, Nigeria’s Chidi who had scored four in Mohun Bagan’s historic 5-3 win over East Bengal, gave the supply from a right side move as East Bengal goalkeeper Sandip Nandy’s misjudgment yielded the crucial goal. As Nandy failed to clear the ball, Sueoka made good use of the Chidi cross to finish it nicely 20 minutes before the final whistle. Distracted and disillusioned, East Bengal could not fight back and even the red-and-gold fans lost all hopes, emptying the 120,000-capacity Yuva Bharti Krirangan Stadium.
(Pic Courtesy PTI)