Durand Cup 2019: East Bengal 1–1 (2-3 on pens) Gokulam Kerala FC – 5 Talking Points
The match finished 1-1 after 120 minutes before the Kerala outfit edged the match in the tie-breaker. Samad Ali Mullick opened the scoring for East Bengal in the 17th minute with a fine volley. However, Gokulam Kerala's Marcus Joseph reduced the margin in injury time of the 2nd half to restore parity.
East Bengal’s misery continued in the shoot-out as Lalrindika Ralte, Jaime Santos and Boithang Haokip failed to make the net ripple.
Gokulam Kerala will face Mohun Bagan in the final on the 24th of August.
Let us look at the talking points of the match:
#5 Gokulam maintained their intensity throughout the match
On paper, Gokulam Kerala looked a tough nut to crack and their performance on the field reflected the same. They barely allowed East Bengal an inch and their intensity remained the same throughout the match.
East Bengal dominated the first half with their passes and crosses. But Gokulam stood firm, not allowing the Red and Golds to operate freely near the box. They conceded a goal unluckily but never dropped their intensity levels.
In the 2nd half, Gokulam changed their game-plan. They controlled possession and forced East Bengal to defend resolutely. Their perseverance finally paid off in injury time when Mehtab Singh fouled Henry Kisekka inside the box and Gokulam equalized from the resulting spot kick.
#4 East Bengal lose control in the 2nd half
East Bengal started the match on the front foot. They dominated the ball from the first minute of the match and the Red and Golds could’ve scored in the 2nd minute when Pintu Mahata’s shot kissed the bar.
They continued on their upward curve and deservedly scored the opening goal. They got a couple of chances thereafter but failed to put the ball into the back of the net.
Surprisingly though, they lost momentum after the change of ends. In previous matches, East Bengal played some of their best football in the 2nd half. However, on Wednesday, they fell away after the break.
Rather than attacking, East Bengal went into their shell and started defending. The aggression was missing from their game and it inevitably helped Gokulam get back into the match.
#3 Poor defending costs East Bengal dearly
East Bengal were let down by a few poor defensive displays and they were quite lucky to not concede a goal in the first half.
Coach Alejandro Menendez changed both his central defenders for the game. Mehtab Singh and Marti Crespi replaced Asheer Akhtar and Borja Gomez Perez with Borja nursing a niggle.
The East Bengal defenders never looked confident. Mehtab was undone by Marcus Joseph's dribbling couple of times whereas Crespi looked a tad too slow.
Mehtab’s inexperience came to fore in the 2nd half when he pulled down Kisekka at a crucial moment, handing Gokulam the opportunity to draw level.
The match was played on a hot and humid afternoon in Kolkata. Though the East Bengal players had the experience of playing in such conditions, they started tiring during the 2nd half.
Some players, including Kassim Aidara were seen holding their waist, whereas Gokulam players had the same energy and took advantage of the situation.
East Bengal’s slow movement in extra-time hurt them too as they only defended and failed to muster the energy to attack.
#2 Ubaid shines against his former club
East Bengal signed Lalthuammawia Ralte on loan from Kerala Blasters ahead of the new season. Subsequently, there was a surplus in the goalkeeping department and they decided to offload Ubaid CK. The goalkeeper, playing for his hometown team,Gokulam Kerala, put up a memorable performance against his former employers.
His performance throughout the match was impressive. But, his twin saves during the penalty shoot-out ensured the Man of the Match trophy was awarded to him.
First, he dived to his right to save Jaime Santos’s shot. Then, he stretched his body to the left to save Haokip’s shot and win the match for his team off the final spot kick.
#1 Valera’s strategy worked
For East Bengal, Bidyasagar Singh and Jaime Santos were in tremendous form. Both of them combined well with each other. While Bidyasagar scored five goals, Santos scored three.
Valera was aware of the threat the duo posed. As a result, he marked both players tightly. Andre Etienne played superbly to cut the link between the two players. The usual passing inside the opponent’s box was missing from East Bengal's play courtesy the tactic and they relied on long crosses, which the Gokulam defenders had no problem clearing.
Even the introduction of Haokip didn’t change the situation. Haokip has been off-colour since he arrived in Kolkata and Wednesday’s performance was no exception.