Dimitri Petratos came up with a fine solo effort to find the only goal of the match and help a 10-man Mohun Bagan Super Giant prevail over its arch-rival Emami East Bengal by a solitary goal in the final of the 132nd Durand Cup, at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday.
The Indian Super League champion kept its reputation intact to regain the coveted title after a gap of 23 years.
With a turnout of around 60,000 in the galleries cheering for their favourite sides, the match turned out to be a nervy affair forcing the two sides to seek caution over aggression.
Mohun Bagan SG, which went down to 10 men following the ejection of its midfielder Anirudh Thapa in the 62nd minute, finally managed to recollect itself in the final quarter of the action and found the winner in the 71st minute.
DURAND CUP 2023 FINAL HIGHLIGHTS: Mohun Bagan Super Giant beats East Bengal 1-0 to win Durand Cup 2023
The goal came as a nice piece of work from its Australian striker, Petratos, who showed the requisite skill to come up with a spectacular finish to win the season’s second derby for Mohun Bagan. This saw Mohun Bagan SG lifting the crown for the 17th time and surpassing East Bengal as the most successful team in the tournament.
The opening half turned out to be an insipid affair as opponents contained their offensive plans to see the action mostly hovering around midfield. Mohun Bagan put three foreigners – Albanian Armando Sadiku, Frenchman Hugo Boumous and Petratos – in its attack formation at the start but East Bengal did a fine job in the defence to thwart its opponent’s plans.
The match came alive after the hour mark when Mohun Bagan was reduced to 10 men following Thapa’s ejection in the 62nd minute.
The India international received his second booking of the match for a high boot charge on the East Bengal forward Javier Siverio. East Bengal tried to utilize its numerical advantage but it was Mohun Bagan which found the crucial break to eventually emerge the winner.
The intense pressure of the occasion did weigh on Mohun Bagan initially as East Bengal stuck to a defensive plan preferring attack on the break. Having one of the best combinations of foreign and Indian players, the mega-budget green-and-maroon brigade struggled to settle down to the desired rhythm.
East Bengal utilised the uncertainty in the opposition ranks and made regular inroads in the Mohun Bagan box.
Nandhakumar Sekar, who had been regularly producing the winners for East Bengal, came close to scoring once but his effort in the 43rd minute sailed over. This came after the three Indian internationals – Thapa, Asish Rai and Sahal Abdul Samad - combined to bring up an attack in the 37th minute.
But Sahal in the end could not control his shot to send the ball away. Petratos had a chance in the final minute of first-half injury time but his spectacular effort from top of the East Bengal box narrowly missed the target.
Looking to take the advantage of its numerical superiority, East Bengal had a chance in the 70th minute but the Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, made a fine save to deny the effort of Brazilian substitute Cleiton Silva.
Petratos, who dribbled clear of two East Bengal defenders, got the goal on the other end in the next minute with an angular grounder that beat the opposition goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill all ends up.
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