East Bengal FC secured their spot in the semi-finals of the 132nd edition of Durand Cup following their victory against Gokulam Kerala FC. As expected, both teams battled out a fiercely competitive football encounter on a soggy evening at the Salt Lake Stadium. However, Aminou Bouba’s own goal ultimately proved to be the deciding factor between the two teams as East Bengal qualified for the semifinals of the Durand Cup after four long years.
Carles Cuadrat fielded the same starting eleven that emerged victorious against Punjab FC in their final game of the group stage. Domingo Oramas Cabrera, on the other hand, made plenty of changes from the lineup that lost to Bengaluru FC in the previous match. Komron Tursunov, the new signing, made his debut for the Malabarians starting in the attack with Sanchez and Sreekuttan.
Within 30 seconds, East Bengal won a corner and were off to a strong start. Mahesh Singh floated a beautiful left footed cross towards unmarked Siverio at the edge of the box, and he floated the ball into the packed six-yard box, which was turned in by Jordan Elsey. The East Bengal FC set-piece routine right from the training ground led to the goal, astounding the Malabarians’ defence.
Mahesh Singh bombarded a cross towards Nandhakumar on the far post around the ten-minute mark, but Nandha was unable to capitalize on it. Few minutes later, Nandha found Borja at the edge of the box with a brilliant pass, but the Spaniard’s effort was off target. In the 22nd minute, Basith received the game’s first caution for a foul on Siverio. Soon after, Souvik also went into the book for a late challenge on Nili. Around the half-hour mark, Borja’s brilliant cross from the corner was flicked towards Saul Crespo by Siverio. But Saul’s effort bounced off the crossbar denying the second goal for the Red and Gold brigade.
East Bengal were constantly on the attack as Souvik floated a ball into the box towards Siverio who could not convert the header. The Malabarians had their first real chance of the game in the 40th minute when Alejandro Sanchez’s left footed effort was stopped by an outstanding save from Prabhsukhan Gill. East Bengal were leading 1-0 at the half time.
East Bengal made a blistering start to the second half as Mahesh’s flick from Borja’s through ball went just above the crossbar. Basith fouled Mahesh Singh in the 48th minute, but he was fortunate enough to avoid a second yellow. Aminou Bouba scored the Malabarians’ equalizer with a magnificent header in the 57th minute after Gokulam’s skipper received a wonderful cross from Abhijith.
Cuadrat made some changes right away, replacing Souvik and Borja with Edwin and Pardo respectively. Around the hour mark, Gokulam made their first substitution as Noufal took Tursunov’s spot. As the game went on, Aminou Bouba was shown a yellow card for an elbow on Cleiton Silva who had replaced Javier Siverio. Gokulam made two more changes as Rahul Raju and Shijin replaced Alejandro Sanchez and Abhijith.
Aminou Bouba, the hero of Gokulam Kerala FC, turned into a villain in the 77th minute when he deflected Nishu Kumar’s long-range effort into his own net, giving East Bengal the advantage with 13 minutes to go. As the clock ticked on, both the coaches made a few changes. East Bengal FC did not back off despite having the advantage and never stopped attacking.
Around the 90-minute mark, Edwin Vanspaul’s right footed shot from the edge of the box was blocked by the Gokulam keeper. Six minutes were added on at the end of the normal time, giving a chance for the Malabarians to find an equalizer but the visitors could not get past the tenacious defence of East Bengal who ended up winning the game 2-1 in the end.
Despite Gokulam’s fighting effort, it was East Bengal who emerged victorious and advanced to the semifinals. Carles Cuadrat will be a happy man as his team has still not lost a game in this edition of the Durand Cup. East Bengal FC will be taking on Northeast United FC in the semi-finals on the 29th of August at the Salt Lake Stadium.
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