Kolkata, Sep 21: Delhi FC held on, while Bengaluru FC made the ultimate comeback to make the quarter-finals of the 130th Durand Cup.
The Indian Navy footballers had a chance, Kerala Blasters FC had a glimmer of hope until the final minute, but it wasn’t to be their day. Throughout the 90 minutes, all four teams had a mathematical chance to qualify.
Delhi were up against ISL side Kerala Blasters at the Kalyani Municipality Stadium. With the game deadlocked at half-time and Bengaluru down 0-2 to the Indian Navy at this point, the onus was on both teams to draw advantage by getting the first goal early on in the second half.
It was Willis Deon Plaza who gave Delhi the lead in the 53rd minute, and that meant the team from the Capital playing in the second division currently, only needed to hang on to their lead to qualify. Plaza is now the top scorer of the tournament with four goals to his name.
Elsewhere at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan (YBK), matters had turn to chaos. By the end of the first-half, it was the Indian Navy team leading two-nil against heavyweights Bengaluru FC in what seemed to be heading towards an extraordinary upset.
The Blues looked totally off colour for the first 45 minutes. They missed quite a number of chances to convert and the Indian Navy dominated the game for almost the entire half.
In the 19th minute, Jijo took a gorgeous shot from outside the box to take the Sailormen one goal up. A few minutes later, Bengaluru had a golden opportunity to equalize when a Harmanpreet cross was well received by Siva Sakthi who took a cross footed shot at the goal but it went over the bar.
In the 30th minute, Sreyas, who has had a very good tournament, scored the second for Navy.
Bengaluru looked a different side in the second half. Just a few minutes after half time, a fumble in the Navy goal meant Bengaluru’s Leon Augustine had an easy chance to score his team’s first but failed to convert.
However, things changed quickly as Bengaluru raised the tempo. A smart turn by Lyngdoh opened up the Navy defence and Leon halved the deficit in the 53rd minute. Bengaluru sailed on their newfound momentum and were drawn back on level terms by Harmanpreet Singh in the 61st minute.
In the 75th minute, Bengaluru were awarded a penalty which Ajay Chhetri converted with no mistake and at this point, the game seemed to be slipping away from the Navy. Harmanpreet got his second of the game in the 81st minute to make it 4-2, essentially ending all hopes of a famous comeback. Thoi Singh added a fifth to make it 5-2 in stoppage time but there was still room for one last goal, with Vijay scoring a consolation goal to end the game 5-3.
All that drama means that it’s Bengaluru who top Group C, while Delhi FC go through to the quarter-finals as runners-up from the group.
Quarter-finals of the 130th Durand Cup will get underway on Thursday, 23rd September with a big game pitting defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC against local favourites Mohammedan Sporting at the VYBK. Harmanpreet Singh of Bengaluru and defender Anwar Ali of Delhi were adjudged to be the Man of the Match.