VYBK Football Ground at 3 P.M
GOKULAM KERALA FC STUN QUESS EAST BENGAL TO REACH DURAND CUP FINAL FOR THE FIRST TIME
August 21 happened to be one of the most memorable dates in the football calendar of Kolkata in recent times, as two heavyweight teams, Quess East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, both played in different semi-finals of the 129th Durand Cup.
Quess East Bengal started a full-fledged attack right from referee’s whistle. In the 3rd minute, Pintu Mahata hit the cross-bar while making a cross to Jaime Santos Colado. The young footballer, a transfer from arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, showed some excellent footballing skills but failed to find the net. However, in the 18th minute, Samad Ali Mallick took a shot from a long distance and the ball, with a deflection from Mohammad Rashid, found the net beating GKFC goalie Ubaid’s long dive. Gokulam tried hard to score the equaliser with a couple of good attacks but till the half-time whistle, the scoreboard displayed 1-0 in favour of Quess East Bengal.
QEB suffered an early setback in the second half when goalscorer Samad Ali Mallick went down with an injury and had to be taken off in a stretcher. A couple of substitutions significantly changed the course of the match. Kamalpreet Singh replaced Samad. In the 77th minute, Gokulam brought in Bruno Pelissary in place of Andre Etienne. Quess East Bengal did well to defend their sole goal, and when 90 minutes were up, the fans were jubilant to see their favourite team almost cruise through. They thought it was just a matter of seconds for Red-Yellows to qualify for the final of this venerated tournament for the 28th time.
The fourth official gave 6 mins added time, and little did QEB fans know that things were to change dramatically in such a short duration. Barely a couple of minutes for the final whistle, Mehtab Singh was shown a red card, much to the chagrin of Quess East Bengal as they also conceded a penalty in the process. Marcus Joseph made no mistake in equalising and the match thus went into extra time.
Gokulam consolidated their attack against a 10-man QEB team. Both Marcus Joseph and Bruno Pelissary tried to score but the net would evade them. Mirshad, the QEB goalie had a tough time but was eventually successful in restricting the Malabarians from taking a lead.
A 1-1 scoreboard at the end of the extra time meant a penalty shootout would decide the fate of the two teams, a first for this year’s edition of the tournament. Lalrindika stepped up to take the first penalty for Quess East Bengal but hit the post. Bruno took the turn for Gokulam and scored. Next up for QEB was the much dependable Colado. The entire VYBK went into a shock when Colado’s attempt was foiled by a brilliant save from Ubaid, the GKFC goalie. Meitei went up next but a superlative save from Mirshad denied GKFC a lead in the shootout. It was QEB’s turn next and Marti Crespi comfortably scored one. His Gokulam counterpart Jestin George netted another and pressure piled up on QEB. Boithang Haokip stepped up and kept the hopes of the fans alive by scoring one. Lalromawia took the next penalty for Gokulam Kerala and the ball found itself in the back of the net. For the fifth and final attempt for Quess East Bengal, Tondomba Naorem stepped up, but much to the shock of everyone, Ubaid made another great save, and that was it for QEB.
Thus, Gokulam Kerala FC made a grand comeback from nowhere, a stuff of legends and fairy tales, with 3-2 on penalties (excluding the 1-1 scoreline) and script history by qualifying for the final of the Durand Cup for the first time.