Dimi Petratos scored in the final to give Mohun Bagan the title of champions of Asia’s oldest football competition once more. Their first victory in the Durand Cup since 2000, their 17th, made them the most successful club in the tournament’s 132-year history. East Bengal, their old foe, was defeated by 10 men 1-0.
The fact that East Bengal had just won the Kolkata Derby three weeks prior was quickly forgotten. That Anirudh Thapa was shipped off on the hour imprint to give East Bengal a man-advantage was scarcely observable. That the variety of cards distributed, both to the players and staff, in the midst of the relative multitude of fights normal of this challenge was only a simple commentary.
In the grand scheme of things, Bagan always win, and Juan Ferrando’s team made sure of it by winning their second trophy in a matter of months. At the time, it was ATK Mohun Bagan; now, it is Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Heritage, in the words of Jose Mourinho.
61 minutes into the game however, Bagan’s demeanor of strength was wearing ragged.
It was a last that everybody had anticipated – attritional, brimming with fouls and scarcely any football. Carles Cuadrat and Ferrando had plotted to counterbalance each indeed, despite the fact that it was East Bengal’s rearguard activity that was more great – particularly after Jordan Elsey went off around the half-hour mark with a physical issue.
Although the out-of-possession formations worked beautifully, there were only two goals scored in the first half. Nandhakumar Sekar scorned a plated edged possibility after Anwar Ali’s unfortunate leeway tumbled to him in the container and Petratos terminated above and beyond from the edge of the crate.
Anirudh Thapa’s attempt to remove Javi Siverio’s head with a high boot cost him his head at the hour mark. A second caution for a player who appeared to be in great discomfort as the combative, defensive number six – and it was curtains. East Bengal were a man up, they had finished their Kolkata Derby hoodoo not three weeks earlier, their guard was murmuring, Bagan’s assault was failing, and Mahesh Singh and Nandha were prepared to bring it home. Cuadrat was prepared to end their 11-year long revile of no significant public prizes.
Certainly, even Indian football’s perpetual bridesmaids couldn’t wreck this? As the tears of numerous a red-and-gold clad fan (who maybe paid a sizeable premium for their tickets) after the game showed, they did.
In the 71st minute, Petratos led a counterattack that drove into East Bengal’s half with little on the field. Having been shunted wide for a large part of the game and offering little with his crosses, it makes sense of why Jose Pardo and Saul Crespo eased off the Bagan frontman. They were behaving recklessly. Any other individual, and perhaps they had a reason.
That was all it took. This was Petratos, the player who scored in the final and was responsible for two-thirds of Bagan’s goals during their ISL championship win last year. Additionally, he simplified a previously complex game by transferring the ball to his left foot and letting it fly. A slight redirection off Pardo (who carried out a fundamental error in turning his back – as didd Crespo), a despondent jump from Prabhsukhan Gill, and the ball had settled into the net. Mohun Bagan 1, East Bengal 0. It’s over.
While Petratos has only been at Bagan for a little over a year, he already has his name written in beautiful Bengali script in the history books. The Maidan has some legendary heroes. It was an old favorite that Ferrando had to rely on in spite of all the money spent and new signings with strong reputations: “Give it to Dimi and pray.”
He also delivered. When the objective went in, Bagan settled splendidly. They played 19 minutes of guideline time and 10 minutes of injury time a man down, with nary an uncertainty that it was their name on the prize.
East Bengal, on the other hand, seemed to have a curse that would give Bela Guttman and Benfica a run for their money even more strongly. Eleven years without a significant public prize and the fans had shelled out some serious cash to observe their dry season end, yet rather saw their group docilely surrender to the certainty of Bagan.
Cuadrat loaded his group with prize victors, yet with Bagan’s legacy and strength gazing back at them, they collapsed like a bunch of cards. Straightforward passes were lost, crosses were overhit, target man Cleiton Silva in any event, dropping somewhere down in franticness – it did not matter. Bagan planned to win.
They did, too. The whistle blew at full-time, and what a few groups have chosen is just a ‘pre-season’ prize transformed into three bits of flatware set to be added to the most sparkling prize bureau in Indian football.