By Ajay Majumder
NEW DELHI: Army Green entered the final of the ongoing ongoing 128th Durand Cup after defeating Aizawl FC 7-5 on penalties here today.
The second semi-final of the competition saw both sides level at 3-3 till the end of 120 minutes which resulted in a tie-breaker at Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi.
Dominating the first half Army Green took the lead before the interval through Bikash Budhathoki, who slotted a back volley in the 23rd minute from a long throw-in. Aizawl made a splendid comeback in the second half and restored the partity in the 73rd minute when Bright Middleton Mends headed home before Lalramchullova put them infront five minutes later from the spot. However, Bikram Adhikari equalised for Army Green in the 83rd minute from a free-kick to drag the game into the extra time.
Army Green began the extra time brightly and went ahead for the second time in the game when Herojit Singh capitalised on error by Aizawl FC custodian Lalawmpuia to put his team in front at the very first minute of the extra time.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Aizawl FC almost pulled level but Bright Middleton Mends’ header off a flag-kick missed the target by a whisker.
Thereafter, the highlanders increased their pressure up front putting the Army Green defense under serious threat. The pressure paid off as Aizawl FC found the leveller in the 97th minute. A delightful cross floated in from the right by Lalrinzaula found Mends in the box and the Ghanaian slotted home another header.
In the final few minutes of the game, both sides tried hard for the winner couldn’t break the deadlock as the game went to the shootout where Army Green held their nerve and prevailed 4-2.
This is the first time in past ten years when a Army team have reached the final of the competition after Army XI, who beat Sporting Clube de Goa to claim the title in 2005.
Army Green will face Neroca FC, who ease past DSK Shivajians 3-0 earlier in the day, in the Grand Finale on Sunday.