Seven teams were in contention today for a couple of semi-final slots in the 35th Federation Cup but only the fates of Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC were in their own hands. The Kolkata club progressed to the last four but Bengaluru missed out to Sporting Clube.
Group B: Sporting Clube makes it three Goan clubs in the semis
The group of death remained undecided until the closing stages of the final group game but eventually it was Sporting Clube who progressed despite being rock bottom after matchday one. The Goan club needed to beat Rangdajied United in the early kickoff to stand any chance of reaching the semis and they managed to do that thanks to goals from Boima Karpeh and Victornio Fernandes. Rangdajied also were in contention but after draws against East Bengal and Bengaluru, the Shillong club came up short against Oscar Bruzon’s young Sporting Clube side.
Sporting Clube’s win meant that East Bengal were eliminated even before their game against Bengaluru but the red-and-gold brigade could still do the Goan club a favour by stopping Ashley Westwood’s side from winning. In the end, ex-Sporting Clube striker Edeh Chidi bagged a brace for East Bengal to send his former club through to the last four and break Bengaluru’s hearts. But even before Chidi scored his first, Bengaluru wasted a penalty as Sunil Chhetri’s effort was saved by Gurpreet Sandhu while a goal was also disallowed. The JSW-owned club squandered another spot-kick at 2-0 when Sean Rooney failed to hit the target. To make matters worse coach Westwood was also sent off.
It was a disappointing end to Bengaluru’s Federation Cup campaign, especially for their 40 fans, who made the trip to Manjeri. But full credit to Sporting Clube for bouncing back strongly after losing 5-3 to Bengaluru in the opener and their progression means that just like in the last edition in 2012, there will be three Goan teams in the last four. Holders East Bengal failed to reach the semis for the first time since 2006 but their third straight 2-0 win over Bengaluru will give them a morale boost for the rest of the season and the eight-day break now until the IFA Shield could act as a blessing in disguise for their I-League title challenge.
Sporting Clube 2-0 Rangdajied United
East Bengal 2-0 Bengaluru FC
Final Group B table
Note: East Bengal finish second via head-to-head
Group C: Mariners lose perfect record but save Kolkata’s blushes
It has been a dismal few years for Mohun Bagan as they haven’t won any major silverware since May 2010 while their arch-rivals East Bengal have won seven trophies in that period. The Mariners also failed to get past the group stage in the last two editions of the Federation Cup but two wins and a draw this time has seen them reach the semis. Karim Bencherifa’s side were incredibly not assured of a semi-final place despite winning the first two games without conceding. But they were virtually through even before the start of their final group game against Salgaocar as Shillong Lajong thumped Mumbai FC 4-0 in the early kickoff. Lajong’s win meant that the only way Mohun Bagan would miss out was if Salgaocar beat them by a five-goal margin.
The green-and-maroon brigade looked relaxed but they were determined to finish the group stage with a perfect record and were on course for the same when skipper Odafa Okolie put them in front from the spot in the second half. But a wonder strike from Bikash Jairu denied Bencherifa’s team a third straight victory while Salgaocar earned a well-deserved point. However the equaliser shouldn’t really affect Mohun Bagan’s preparations for their semi-final against Churchill Brothers and they in some ways saved the blushes of Kolkata as they are the only representatives from the West Bengal capital in the last four although five teams entered the competition. Since 2006 at least one Kolkata club has reached the Federation Cup final in every edition and Mohun Bagan will be looking to continue that sequence.
Shillong Lajong 4-0 Mumbai FC
Salgaocar 1-1 Mohun Bagan
Final Group C table
Foreigner: Cornell Glen (Shillong Lajong) – The 2006 World Cupper scored a brilliant hattrick to inspire Lajong to a second 4-0 victory in this Federation Cup and is currently the joint scorer of the tournament with four along with Koko Sakibo of Eagles FC.
Indian: Victorino Fernandes (Sporting Clube) – The youngster’s strike against Rangdajied was his third of this competition and that makes him the highest scorer among Indians. Besides the goals, Victorino has caused problems to every defence that he has faced so Dempo have their task cut out in the semis.
Thursday: Churchill Brothers vs Mohun Bagan (16:00); Sporting Clube vs Dempo (19:30) – Both games LIVE on Ten Action