IFA Shield 2018: Engrossing final on the cards

KOLKATA: Familiar foes East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will battle for the 122nd U-19 IFA Shield when they meet in the final.

The two sides will meet in the ultimate game of the eight-team tournament, which has been highlighted by two-weeks of high class and entertaining football by the some of the finest youth talents in Indian football.

Clashes between these traditional rivals are always feisty encounters and, with so much riding on the outcome, tomorrow’s meeting is sure to be an all-action affair. There is no doubt this will be a memorable occasion for both sides and their fans when it gets underway at Barasat Stadium.

East Bengal thumped Tata Football Academy 4-1 in extra time in East Bengal Ground, while Mohun Bagan edged past stubborn SAIL Football Academy Burnpur 2-1 in Mohun Bagan Ground in semifinals to sail through.

A favourite is hard to pick as both are undefeated in the tournament and have proven themselves to be a lethal attacking force. With the likes of Lalchhanhima, Suranjit Singh and Jhantu Prasad in the ranks, East Bengal will always pose a goal threat but the same can be said of Mohun Bagan, for whom Subha Ghosh, Sourav Das and Koushik Santra have been in exceptional form.

East Bengal coach Ranjan Chowdhury has indicated his pleasure with how the campaign has progressed thus far and remain confident come kick-off that his side will go out and do the business to clinch their maiden U-19 IFA Shield title.

“We are in a very good place, everyone is healthy, strong, fit, recovered. So we are in general looking forward to a good game.” Chowdhury said.

Meanwhile, Mohun Bagan coach Jo Paul Ancheri is hoping they can go a step further this time around, having lost the final against FC Pune City last year.

“I think we are well prepared as we can be for this match. Of course we are facing a very tough opponent in East Bengal and it will be tough for us, but hopefully we can make it a bit tough on East Bengal too,” said Ancheri.

This is the first time when these two meeting in the IFA Shield after it became under-19 tournament in 2015. Prior to this both have met in the final 23 times with East Bengal winning on 12 occasions and Mohun Bagan 6 times. The title was shared thrice and twice the final has been abandoned.

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