Durand Cup 2019: Gokulm down East Bengal on penalties, set up date with destiny

KOLKATA: Gokulam Kerala reached the final of Durand Cup in their maiden appearance after beating East Bengal 4-2 on penalties in their semi-final clash on Wednesday at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

The encounter ended one-all after 120 minutes with Samad Ali Mallick scoring in the first-half for Red and Golds whilst Marcus Joseph levelled from the spot late in second-half stoppage time. 

The opening 10 minutes was a rather scrappy affair, with both teams unable to hold onto the ball long enough to create any decent scoring opportunities.

The first effort on goal only came in the 12th minute, when Jaime Colado met a left-sided cross from Pintu Mahata, but he headed his effort wide of the Gokulam goal.

Colado then continued to terrorize the Gokulam defense, setting up another two chances for Bidyashagar Singh, but the young forward squandered both.

East Bengal, thereafter, continued to press on, and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 19th minute though Samad, who pounced on a loose ball and unleashed a bullet strike from 40 yards out which dipped into the net.

From the goal onwards, East Bengal dominated the proceedings, but poor decision-making let them down in the final third which saw Alejandro Menendez’s charges went into the breather with only a solitary goal lead.

Gokulam, on the other hand, didn’t create much, save for some two half chances after being forced to play on the back foot for most of the first-half. Marcus had a header off a Shibil Mohammad free-kick deflected and from the resultant corner, Henry Kisekka headed over.

The Kerala outfit seemed to have picked lessons from their first-half performance as they came back stronger in the second 45. Just two minutes after the restart Marcus missed one on one with the East Bengal keeper Mirshad Michu chipping the ball over when he raced to a ball looped behind the defense.

They had an even better chance in the 65th minute when Mohammad Rashid found Henry, but Mirshad threw his body across the striker one on one to collect the ball.

East Bengal weren’t without chances of their own, but between some solid defending and the safe hands of Ubaid, the attackers were unable to get an edge on their opponent.

Gokulam continued to have the majority of possession and chances in front of goal with Marucs combining well with Henry and Malemnganba Meitei to create opportunities they were often unlucky not to score from.

As the clock counted down Gokualm continued to put pressure on East Bengal and the pressure eventually told as Marucs  scored the all-important goal in stoppage time after he converted from the spot. The penalty was awarded to Gokulam after Mehtab Singh brought down Henry in the box.

With both sides failing to grab the winner, the game headed for extra time which saw Ubaid and Mirshad make superb saves to force the game to penalties which saw the Gokulam win 4-3 and continue their fine run in the competition.

They will face the winner of second semifinal between Mohun Bagan and Real Kashmir.

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