Bengaluru: FC Goa sealed a place in the final of the 2021 Durand Cup, overcoming a zealous young Bengaluru FC side on penalties.
Naveen Kumar came up big once again in the penalty shootout, saving twice to help the Gaurs seal a place in the final, where they will face Mohammedan Sporting.
The semifinal clash headed to penalties after it finished 2-2 at the end of both 90 and 120 minutes.
The drama though wasn’t over by the time the two teams took their designated 5 spot kicks with the sides still tied at 4 each.
In the end, Goa kept their nerves to edge out the Blues 7-6 in sudden death.
The match got off to a blistering start with Bengaluru FC scoring in the very first minute. An aggressive press saw young forward Siva Sakthi close down Naveen Kumar as the Gaurs looked to play out from the back.
The youngster was a bit too quick for the veteran keeper, who was left helpless to see the block deflect into the back of the net.
Juan Ferrando’s men responded swiftly and were back on level terms within the next seven minutes. A short corner from Alberto Noguera found Muhammed Nemil in space on the left.
The youngster made full use of the opportunity to whip in a delightful cross which was glanced in by Devendra Murgaokar in the middle for his fifth of the tournament – taking him to the top of the goal scorers’ list.
The Gaurs remained in command of much of the proceedings in the remaining minutes of the first half but failed to find the cutting edge that one has normally come to associate with the Gaurs in the Durand Cup. The Blues, on the other hand, sprang sporadic attacks on the counter, however, without much success.
Bengaluru started off the brighter of the two teams following the resumption of play after the halftime break. The Gaurs though would soon snatch back control of the game.
After going close on a few occasions, FC Goa finally made the breakthrough in the 72nd minute as Redeem Tlang struck his first of the season. A good run down the left edge of the box was followed by a calm finish at the near post to give what Goa hoped would be the winner.
The Gaurs’ hopes, though, were dashed late as the young Bengaluru FC side showed some real grit to storm back into the contest with an 83rd-minute equaliser. It was Siva Sakthi, scoring his second of the game from close range, heading in a cross from the right to send the game into extra time.
FC Goa dominated proceedings in the 30 minutes of extra time but never could muster a real goal scoring opportunity against a defiant looking Bengaluru. However, with jerseys drenched in sweat and tired legs, the match marched on to penalties.
The horrors from previous penalty shootouts paid the FC Goa faithful an early visit when Redeem Tlang, taking FC Goa’s second spot-kick, saw Lara Sharma save his effort.
It was, however, Naveen Kumar in the FC Goa goal, who would have the last laugh. The custodian saved twice to help the Gaurs book a spot in the Durand Cup final for the first time in the club’s history.
The final against Mohammedan Sporting is scheduled for a 6 pm kick-off at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan aka, the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday, October 3.