East Bengal enters ASEAN Cup final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> East Bengal reached the final of the ASEAN Club football championship, beating Indonesia's Petrokimia Putra 8-7 in Jakarta.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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East Bengal reached the final of the ASEAN Club football championship, beating Indonesia's Petrokimia Putra 8-7 after sudden death penalty shootout in Jakarta on Thursday. The teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time with East Bengal equalling through Baichung Bhutia in the 58th minute which nullified a Putra goal struck in the 22nd minute. In an absorbing match that saw East Bengal's fortunes fluctuate, the two teams failed to score in the 30 minutes golden-goal extra time. The penalty shootout that followed also finished on level terms 4-4 with both teams missing once. And then in the sudden death, East Bengal scored through Brazilian Douglas De Silva, Surkumar Singh and M Suresh. But Putra's Joko missed their third kick as his weak shot went straight to East Bengal custodian Sandip Nandy, stunning the thousands of home supporters. After key defender Mahesh Gawli's exit in the 86th minute, red carded after picking up two yellow cards in the space of five minutes, East Bengal fought bravely defending with 10 men through the remaining period of regulation time and two halfs of extra time. In the penalty shootout, East Bengal almost went out when Malsawmtluanga missed the fourth kick but as luck would have it the Putra player who took their fifth kick blasted the ball wide giving another lease of life to the Kolkatans. The four other Putra players were on target and so were East Bengal's Bhutia, Bijen Singh, skipper Suley Musah and Chandan Das. Earlier, East Bengal began with Mike Okkoro, playing his first match of the tournament, in place of Debjit Ghosh who was badly injured in the quarter-final win against another local side Persita Tangerang. Twenty minutes into the match, East Bengal conceded their first goal courtesy a blunder by 'keeper Nandy. Taking a goalkick, Nandy, who had a superb tournament coming into this match, stepped out of the box resulting in an indirect free kick for Petrokimia from the edge of the box. No 11 Jayaneel Ujwaan deposited the ball in the right corner of the net spotting that Nandy was rooted to the left post. The 'keeper, who looked upset with his mistake, watched in dismay as the stadium erupted in applause. Meanwhile Okorro, returning from an injury and not playing at his best, hurt his shoulder badly following a rough tackle inside the rival box in the 40th minute and was replaced by Shylo Malsawmtluanga. Changing ends, Putra started with a flourish forcing a corner kick. Nandy again erred four minutes into the second session when he allowed the ball to slip out of his grasp. Though an Indonesian pounced on the chance, an alert Gawli brought off a superb goalline save before Musah cleared it to safety. With Bhutia closely marked by two defenders, Douglas had to shoulder more workload but he too was repeatedly fouled by the Putra players who were finding it hard to contain the threat. Off the four Brazilians in action today -- three for Putra -- Douglas was simply outstanding whether in attack, midfield or in defence. Bhutia made amends for all his earlier lapses with a gem of goal he scored in the 58th minute. Surkumar dashed down the right flank and switched it to Sasthi Duley, who, advancing through the left found an unmarked Bhutia right in the middle of the box. The Sikkim star took his goal tally to seven with a brilliant volley that gave no chance for the rival 'keeper to react. Surkumar excelled with his sudden bursts down the right flank and he almost glorified himself with a terrific solo in the 71st minute. Piercing down the flank, Surkumar left behind two Petro defenders gasping for breath and in the next second had only the rival custodian to beat. However, his onrushing shot hit the near post and bounced out. The two teams still had enough in reserve to provide another 30 minutes of absorbing contest searching for the golden goal. (PTI)

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