Durand Cup – East Bengal’s Complacency Costs Them Victory against BAFT

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In a dramatic Group-A encounter of the Durand Cup, East Bengal faced off with Bangladesh Army Football Team at the Vivekananda Yuvabharati Kirangan. The match marked the debut of new head coach, Carles Cuadrat, who fielded a squad with as many as nine players who joined the club this summer. BAFT, meanwhile, came fresh off a 5-0 thrashing by the young colts of Mohun Bagan. Despite East Bengal’s first-half dominance, the Bangladesh Army Team fought back in the dying moments to secure a dramatic draw and keep their hopes somewhat alive in the Durand Cup.

The match kicked off on a wet evening with East Bengal showing early promise, especially down the left flank, where Mandar Rao Desai and Mahesh Singh combined effectively, delivering dangerous crosses into the box. In the early minutes of the match, Javier Siverio attempted to score a sneaky goal when Mahesh sprinted past the Bangladesh defenders and delivered a cross past the BAFT line. However, Siverio used his arm instead of his head to direct the ball past Ashraful Rana. The referee promptly spotted the infringement, resulting in a yellow for Siverio.

East Bengal

BAFT responded with newfound physicality today, having learned their lessons from their previous match against the Mariners. They dominated the midfield, outmuscling East Bengal’s players in key areas as Cuadrat’s men tried creating attacks from the wings. East Bengal’s Nandha Kumar had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when Siverio set him up inside the box. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Nandha, unfortunately, failed to capitalize, and BAFT defenders cleared the danger.

The Red and Yellow Brigade’s persistence paid off when Nishu Kumar was brought down inside the box by Kamrul Islam, leading to a penalty. Saul Crespo calmly stepped up and slotted the ball past Ashraful Islam Rana, giving East Bengal their first goal under Carles Cuadrat.

As the match neared the 45-minute mark, East Bengal had more chances to extend their lead. Guite found himself with only one defender to beat but was denied a goal by a brilliant save from Ashraful. The team had another excellent chance from the resulting corner kick, with Harmanjot Khabra delivering a cross that found Siverio inside the box. Although the Spaniard attempted a volley, he couldn’t keep the ball on target, missing out on a challenging opportunity.

Siverio eventually found the back of the net when Khabra sent in a curling cross from the right-flank. The forward managed to head the ball amidst the chaos inside BAFT’s box, allowing Carles Cuadrat’s side to head into halftime with a comfortable 2-0 lead.

East Bengal

East Bengal had two promising opportunities to score their third goal as the second-half kicked on. On the first occasion, Mandar Rao Desai broke free on the left flank and delivered a daring cross into the box. The BAFT goalkeeper, Ahraful, made a full stretch and fisted the ball out, but it fell to Nishu Kumar, who attempted a first-time volley. Unfortunately, Nishu couldn’t keep the shot low despite the goalkeeper being in an awkward position.

In another attempt, again from the left-flank, Mahesh Naorem sent in a pin-point cross into the box for Siverio to finish, but the BAFT defender outmuscled the Spaniard, clearing the ball for a corner kick. While BAFT excelled in one-on-one defending, they lacked precision in their passing as they where sinking without a trace.

However, things changed around the 70th-minute mark when Nishu Kumar received a direct red card from the referee for dissent, although the reason for the decision remained unclear. As a result, the new arrival from Kerala will now miss the upcoming derby against Bagan. Cuadrat looked at his bench as Nandha Kumar was substituted with 15 minutes left to play, concluding what was a disappointing outing for the winger. Gurnaj Singh Grewal, who had impressed with the Indian U17 team, joined the action for the final minutes.

With the Red and Yellow Brigade looking visibly tired and complacent in the closing stages, BAFT saw an opportunity to get back into the game. BAFT capitalized on East Bengal’s complacency, reducing the deficit with a fine volley from Sahariar Emon, marking their first goal in the Durand Cup this season. Substitute Jordan Elsey failed to clear his header properly and gifted to ball to Emon, allowing the BAFT forward to find the net.

East Bengal

With six minutes of extra time remaining, BAFT saw a glimmer of hope to salvage a result from the match. East Bengal, initially, looked comfortable in the ball and it seemed like they would manage to hold on to their lead as the game approached its final minute.

However, in a moment of misjudgment, Harmanjot Khabra gifted the ball to BAFT right in front of East Bengal’s goal. The BAFT attackers took advantage and unleashed two powerful shots at Prabsukhan Gill, who made two back-to-back impressive saves. However, Gill lacked support from his defenders, leading to Meraj Pradhan snatching the rebound from his grasp and scoring the equalizer. The BAFT dugout erupted in jubilation as they had now secured a precious point from the jaws of defeat.

The full-time whistle blew a few moments later and Carles Cuadrat’s men had gifted the game to Bangladesh Army FT in the last twenty minutes. As the East Bengal players made their way to the dressing room, they would undoubtedly feel more like they had suffered a loss rather than a draw.

Read: Mohun Bagan Crushes Bangladesh Army FT ahead of Punjab and East Bengal clash

The senior players of East Bengal appeared rusty in today’s match, and they will be eager to shake off any complacency before the highly-anticipated derby against Bagan. Mistakes similar to those made by Khabra or Elsey today will not go unpunished when they face Juan Ferrando’s Green and Maroon team. Cuadrat will hope that his team regains their footing as their upcoming Durand Cup match holds the key to their qualification prospects and sets the tone for the new season ahead.


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Anurag Guha
Anurag Guha
Loves Indian Football and cars that go vroom vroom

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