East Bengal 0
Kuwait SC 3 (Rogerinho 42, Khamees 43, Fahad Awad 88)
Kuwait SC win 7-2 on aggregate
East Bengal: Abhijit Mondal; Abhishek Das, Arnab Mondal, Uga Okpara, Saumik Dey;Joaquim Abranches (Robert Lalthalma 70), Mehtab Hossain, Cavin Lobo (Shylo Malswamtluanga 84), Lalrindika Ralte; Edeh Chidi, James Moga (Baljit Sahni 52).
Kuwait SC: Musab Alkandari; Fahad Awadh, Hussain Ali Baba (Abdullah Al Buraiki 78) , Hussain Hakem, Fahad Hamoud, Jarah Al Ateeqi (Abdullah Aldhafeeri 85); Yaqoub Al Taher, Waleed Ali (Shereedah Al Shereedah 72), Chadi Hammami, Hadi Khamees; Rogerinho
East Bengal’s record-breaking run in the 2013 AFC Cup ended on Tuesday as they were beaten 3-0 by defending champions Kuwait SC in the semi-final at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. The Kuwait club progress to a third straight final appearance after winning the tie 7-2 on aggregate.
Kuwait SC scored twice within a minute close to the end of the first half through Rogerinho and Hadi Khamees while defender Fahad Awad completed the rout late in the second half. Both sides were also reduced to ten with Khamees shown a straight red close to the halftime break and East Bengal’s Arnab Mondal sent off for a professional foul in the second half.
There were no surprises in the East Bengal lineup as young and inexperienced Abhishek Das started at right back while Cavin Lobo partnered Mehtab Hossain in central midfield. Edeh Chidi started just behind James Moga upfront.
But there was a massive surprise in the Kuwait SC lineup as Tunisia’s all-time top scorer Issam Jemaa was named on the bench along with Kuwait international Abdullah Al Buraiki. Instead of playing a diamond in midfield, Kuwati SC’s Romanian coach Marin Ion started with two defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Needing to win by at least a two-goal margin, East Bengal started the game positively and won a couple of corners but couldn’t seriously test Kuwait SC goalkeeper Musab Al Kandari. The visitors were looking to counter attack at every opportunity with an effort from Waleed Ali being blocked by Abhishek.
Minutes later East Bengal had a huge scare as a long ball saw Rogerinho go clean through on goal and forced Abhijit Mondal to come way out of his goal. The East Bengal custodian had to handle Rogerinho’s chip outside the box but luckily was only booked by Australian referee Strebre Delovski. Waleed struck the resulting freekick well but it was brilliantly saved by Abhijit.
East Bengal were struggling to create clear cut opportunities with left back Saumik Dey having a couple of half chances. Al Kandari was finally called into some serious action when Moga outmuscled a couple of defenders to have a clear sight of the goal but the South Sudan striker’s effort was saved by the Kuwait SC keeper.
There were around 60,000 vociferous East Bengal supporters in the ground and Kuwait SC tried to silence them by slowing the game down close to the halftime break.
The deadlock was broken when East Bengal needlessly lost possession from their own freekick. Brazilian Rogerinho picked up the ball in his own half and was given the freedom of the Salt Lake Stadium to run at the East Bengal back four. He easily went past Arnab Mondal before finding the back of the net.
Even before they could recover from conceding the first, East Bengal were 2-0 down almost immediately. Arnab allowed a high ball to bounce and was unaware of the run from Khamees behind him. The Kuwait SC forward got a free run towards goal and easily scored past Abhijit Mondal.
At 2-0, it looked game over but Khamees gave East Bengal a lifeline as he kicked out at Uga Okpara while being down on the field. The Australian referee showed the Kuwaiti striker a straight red and it took a while for Khamees to come off the field. While on his way out Khamees reminded East Bengal coach Marcos Falopa and the fans about the scoreline by gesturing with his hand.
Despite the numerical advantage, East Bengal still had a mountain to climb in the second half as they needed four goals without reply to take the game to extra time. Kuwait SC were dropping deep at the start of the second period and much like the first half, East Bengal kept playing long balls towards Moga but none of the midfielders were making runs close to the South Sudan forward.
Falopa made a bizarre substitution just seven minutes after the restart as Baljit Sahni came on for Moga, who looked infuriated. In previous matches, Falopa’s changes always had an impact but in this game Sahni struggled to make a difference with East Bengal only testing AlKandari from long range.
At the other end, Tunisian Chadi Hammami broke the offside trap but his effort was parried away by Abhijit. A few minutes later, Sahni also tested AlKandari with a header but East Bengal’s hopes of comeback were ended when Arnab got sent off midway through the second half.
From a counter attack, Rogerinho picked up the ball and started running towards the East Bengal box. Arnab tried to chase the Brazilian but eventually had to foul him and was shown the straight red. The India international wasn’t really the last man as Uga Okpara was in close proximity but the Australian referee felt that Rogerinho was denied a goal scoring opportunity.
A few fans started to leave after Arnab’s sending off but East Bengal did hit the woodwork as Lalrindika struck the post from a freekick. Rogerinho was also denied his second goal by the post. This was after another brilliant solo run from the Brazilian, who was in a class of his own in the second leg.
Right back Fahad Awad bagged the third in the closing stages after a fine overlapping run. Awad got past Saumik and slotted the ball past Abhijit with Abhishek’s desperate effort to clear on the line going in vain.
East Bengal’s hundred percent home record in the AFC Cup ended in emphatic fashion but it was always going to be mission impossible against the two-time champions especially after losing the first leg 4-2. Despite the heavy aggregate defeat, the Kolkata club still made India proud and would now hope to get their I-League campaign back on track.