Three Champions and one runners-up trophy in last four years – East Bengal faithful could not have asked for more. Neither could Trevor James Morgan, East Bengal’s British coach, have asked for a better birthday gift on the day he turned 56, as his team defied all odds to notch up a 3-2 victory against defending I-League Champions Dempo Sports Club in the final of Federation Cup 2012. The East Bengal players also presented Morgan his deserved share of “Pep Guardiola Moment” as they gave the British coach a victory toss while singing is unison “Happy Birthday To You”, after scripting a memorable comeback victory to capture their eighth Federation Cup crown.
Climax Lawrance drew the first blood for the Goan Blues soon after the half time breather with a thunderous strike from the edge of the box, much to the agony of a capacity crowd at Siliguri’s Kanchenjungha Stadium. However, the Red-&-Golds drew level with in ten minutes when Mehtab Hossain’s flag kick was expertly headed into Dempo goal by Arnab Mondal and the game spurred back to life.
Both the teams tried their best to break the dead-lock, with East Bengal coming pretty close twice, but at the end of stipulated 90 minutes, the score-line remained the same.
In extra-time, Morgan made a shrewd tactical switch by introducing Sanju Pradhan-Lalrindika Ralte combo on the wings and the substitutions worked wonders for the Kolkata giants as they raced to a 3-1 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock for the end of additional extra time – thanks to goals from Manandeep Singh and Edeh Chidi. Veteran defender Mahesh Gawli revived some hope of a comeback with a late strike from Godwin Franco’s free kick, but the Red-&-Gold brigade defended with purpose to survive the spirited Dempo fightback on their way to eighth Federation Cup trophy. In this tournament review, The Hard Tackle depicts a few memorable moments from Federation Cup 2012.
Player of The Tournament : Mehtab Hossain (East Bengal)
The “Double Cylinder” had a terrific campaign in this Federation Cup. Deployed in his favorite position as a deep-lying playmaker, Mehtab played the dual role of a defensive blocker as well as a playmaker with ridiculous ease. When he defended, he defended with purpose and while attacking, he was the starting point behind all Red-&-Gold attacks, besides taking up the responsibility of delivering the set pieces.
Emerging Player of The Tournament : Lalrindika Ralte (East Bengal)
The highly-rated 20 year old Mizoram lad was handled with utmost care by Trevor James Morgan in this Federation Cup campaign. Ralte was mainly used as a second half substitute and he proved to be a super-sub for the Red-&-Golds. He impressed one and all with his little cameo appearances, including Indian coach Wim Koevermans, who promptly rewarded Dika with a national call-up for the upcoming friendly game against Singapore. His performance against Churchill Brothers in the semi final deserves special mention where he came on a substitute at the start of additional extra time and found the back of the net with a sublime left footer. In the final against Dempo, it was almost a “Deja-Vu”. Ralte, after coming in as a substitute, unleashed a thunderous left footer from the edge of the box, which ricocheted off Dempo custodian Subhashish Roy Chowdhury’s gloves and a lurking Manandeep Singh cleverly nudged the rebound home to give East Bengal the crucial lead.
Goal of The Tournament : Clifford Miranda (Dempo SC)
This edition of Federation Cup has seen quite a few brilliant goals. Beto’s goal against Air India, Chidi’s strike against ONGC and Lalrindika Ralte’s extra time winner against Churchill Brothers deserve to be applauded. However Clifford Miranda’s brilliant free-kick goal against Shillong Lajong FC takes the cake.
It’s the perfect example of how a free kick should be taken. Dempo earned a 25 yards free kick on the brink of half time whistle. Clifford Miranda stepped up and unleashed a lethal left footed curler, which deviated in the air at the very last moment to deceive the Lajong goalie before crashing on to the back of the net through the top right corner. Everything about that shot was just inch perfect – be it the flight, precision, power or drift.
Save of The Tournament : Sandip Nandy (Churchill Brothers )
The veteran Bengali ‘keeper made a stunning double save against his former employer East Bengal in the first semi final of this Federation Cup. Around half-an-hour mark, East Bengal’s Nigerian midfielder Penn Orji, after receiving a delicious forward ball from Mehtab Hossain, unleashed a right-footed screamer targeting the top-left corner but Sandip was equal to the task as he dived full length to fist the ball away. Edeh Chidi then tried to beat Sandip on the rebound, but the veteran goalie showed great anticipation and reflex to pull off a miraculous save.