E Bengal beat Army for 15th Durand title

East Bengal score three goals in quick succession to defeat Army XI 3-0 and claim their 15th title in the Durand Cup football tournament.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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New Delhi:

East Bengal pumped in three goals in quick succession to defeat Army XI 3-0 and claim their 15th title in the Durand Cup football tournament at the Ambedkar stadium here today. The scoreline might not indicate the competitive level of a closely fought final as Army, after holding the experienced Kolkata team for more than an hour, conceded three goals in a space of ten minutes to lose the match. The highlight of East Bengal's win was the virtuoso performance of Mike Okoro, who was also named 'player of the tournament'. The Nigerian striker weaved magical moves through the opponents' defence, and with the ball playing around his feet as if tied to his boots by an invisible string, Okoro made Army defenders dance to his tune. But East Bengal, going into the match as favourites, needed more than just Okoro's splendid display to break Army's resistance who played with great courage and determination. That extra touch of class was provided by Tushar Rakshit. In the 67th minute, Tushar, collecting the ball from Kaustav Ghosh in the centre, set up Okoro on the left with a sublime pass and the Nigerian beat the goalkeeper Abun Gobi Singh with a deft touch. That one goal turned the match on its head. Suddenly Army's morale sagged and the next goal came in five minutes when Kulothungan, coming in for Kaustav, blasted a fierce righfooter on the left top of the net. "I would have been happy even with a 1-0 win, I just wanted the players to get the cup," said a delighted Subash Bhowmick, coach of the East Bengal team. "Considering that we were without some of the senior players, I could not have asked for more from the team," he added. Army had to be content with the achievement of entering the final for the first time. They had nothing to lose, and that showed in their game. "We were not playing much on the wings. In fact in the first half, we did not open on the right at all," said Army's coach Tushar Kanti Majumdar. "Today we could not play as much we did against Mohammedan Sporting or Vasco," he conceded. Nevertheless, the manner in which Pradip Debnath and Saroj Gurung penetrated the East Bengal wall repeatedly was a delight to watch. If only Preetam Bahadur and Raghu Kumar upront had succeeded in finishing their fine efforts, Army could have scripted a happy ending to their fantastic run in the tournament. At the other end, Abun Gobi Singh proved a tough nut to crack for Okoro and his men. The Army custodian, who was one of the five 'Promising Players of the Tournament', had proved his temperament in the semifinal win over Sporting on penalty shootout the other day. Today, he was grit personified while doing an almost lone job in guarding the citadel. As and when Okoro pierced through the flimsy Army defence and threatened to score, Gobi Singh rose to the occasion, by taking the forward head-on and nipping the attack at its root. (PTI)