Mohun Bagan 1-1 (2-4) East Bengal – EB keep domestic quadruple dream alive
Mohun Bagan 1 (Sabeeth 46) – East Bengal 1 (Barisic 88): EB won 4-2 on penalties
East Bengal successful penalties: Chidi, Barisic, Sanju, Baljit
Mohun Bagan successful penalties: Jewel, Aibor
East Bengal: Gupreet Singh Sandhu, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Gurwinder Singh, Uga Okpara, Saumik Dey, Penn Orji (Andrew Barisic 69), Mehtab Hossain, Sanju Pradhan, Lalrindika Ralte (Naoba Singh 84), Robin Singh (Baljit Singh Sahni 58), Edeh Chidi.
Mohun Bagan: Shilton Paul, Nirmal Chettri, Echezona Anyichie, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Aibor Khongjee, Manish Maithani, Denson Devadas (Biswajit Saha 120), Jewel Raja, Quinton Jacobs (Tolgay Ozbey 90+1), CS Sabeeth, Odafa Okolie.
Defending champions East Bengal defeated arch-rivals Mohun Bagan 4-2 on penalties to reach the 117th IFA Shield final. The second semi-final ended 1-1 after 120 minutes with CS Sabeeth giving Mohun Bagan the lead at the start of the second half but substitute Andrew Barisic scored a brilliant late equaliser to take the game to extra time.
Both sides had half chances in the additional 30 minutes but neither looked like scoring and 1-1 was a fair reflection of a high-pressure match. Gurpreet Sandhu turned out to be East Bengal’s hero in the shootout as he saved Odafa’s effort while Nirmal Chhetri also hit the bar for Mohun Bagan. Naoba Singh missed the chance to win it for East Bengal but Baljit Singh Sahni made no mistake as the red-and-gold brigade emerged victorious to keep their domestic quadruple dream alive. In a repeat of last year’s final, they will play Prayag United on Wednesday.
The match marked the return of this marquee fixture in this famous old competition for the first time since 2005. It was also the first time since November 20, 2011 that the Salt Lake Stadium was having an evening match with the new floodlights in full use.
East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan made just one change to the team that held Vietnam’s Sai Gon Xuan Thanh to a goalless draw in the AFC Cup as Robin Singh replaced Andrew Barisic upfront because of the tournament rules only allowing three foreigners.
Reigning AIFF Player of the Year Syed Rahim Nabi was the notable absentee from the Mohun Bagan lineup due to injury while former East Bengal striker Tolgay Ozbey also started on the bench with the in-form CS Sabeeth partnering Odafa Okolie.
More than 60,000 spectators were present at the Salt Lake Stadium but they were not treated to an entertaining game at all as both sides struggled to create clear cut chances.
East Bengal being the much stronger team on paper looked very comfortable in possession but were finding it difficult to get behind the Mohun Bagan defence who were very well organised.
The red-and-gold brigade did have a couple of openings though as Chidi headed Mehtab Hossain’s corner wide while Lalrindika Ralte took time to sort out his feet and thus hit his effort straight at Shilton Paul from a tight angle.
Mohun Bagan had a diamond in midfield with Jewel Raja and Quinton Jacobs trying to support Odafa and Sabeeth whenever possible. Jewel had Mohun Bagan’s only decent chance in the first half as he went past a couple of East Bengal players in a fine run but failed to hit the target.
The first half unsurprisingly ended goalless but the second half got off to a flying start as Mohun Bagan took the lead through Sabeeth. A hopeful long ball was played into the East Bengal box and the entire red-and-gold back four were attracted towards Odafa. The Nigerian did brilliantly to help it in on for an unmarked Sabeeth who volleyed past Gurpreet.
The Mohun Bagan end was ecstatic while East Bengal stands went completely quiet and that mood got transferred to the pitch also as Morgan’s side looked out of sorts and were not threatening at all to equalise.
The English coach made two offensive changes as Baljit replaced Robin while Barisic came on for the ineffective Penn Orji. Mohun Bagan were happy to defend in numbers with the central defensive pairing of Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Echezona Anyichie having an excellent outing.
But Mohun Bagan were guilty of giving the ball away too easily which made it easier for East Bengal to dominate possession and they had a great chance to restore parity when Lalrindika played a great ball for Baljit but the latter completely missed the target.
Time started to run out for East Bengal and in another tactical switch, Morgan introduced Naoba Singh in place of Lalrindika Ralte to add more width to his side.
Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa surprisingly was not making any changes even though his side were starting to tire. East Bengal were winning a series of corners and could have been level when Barisic put his effort wide despite being put under no pressure.
East Bengal’s dominance finally paid off when Barisic’s first time shot on the turn after a pass from Sanju Pradhan went past Shilton Paul. It was a superb strike from the substitute and surely ensures his name in the East Bengal folklore.
Tolgay was introduced in place of Quinton in second half stoppage time but the Australian’s biggest contribution in extra time was a half-hearted shot that found the side netting.
Chidi had a half chance which he headed straight at Shilton while Odafa’s freekick was saved by Gurpreet.
East Bengal started the shootout with Chidi converting his spot-kick but Odafa, the highest-paid player in Indian football, saw his effort saved by Gurpreet, who was also the hero of the shootout in the 2012 final against Prayag.
Barisic also converted but former East Bengal player Nirmal hit the bar while his good friend Sanju put East Bengal 3-0 up in the shootout. Jewel finally opened the account for Mohun Bagan in the shootout and Naoba’s miss followed by Aibor Khongjee’s conversion kept the contest alive at 3-2 with each side having one more penalty each.
Baljit ended Mohun Bagan’s hopes of a comeback by slotting home East Bengal’s fifth penalty which sent them to a second straight IFA Shield final.