Internet Desk: Goalkeeper Samik Mitra came out as the hero in the first semi-final of the ongoing U-18 I-League as AIFF Elite Academy edged out United Sports Club following a marathon 13-12 penalty shootout to seal their place in the final which is scheduled at the same venue on Sunday.
Samik, who came as a substitute in the 90th minute, saved Rahul Kuddes Purakaite’s spot-kick to ensure his team’s progress into the final.
It was the AIFF Elite Academy who started on a positive note and on 7 minutes, skipper Edmund Lalrindika tested the United SC keeper Aditya Patra with a low shot, which Aditya collected calmly.
In the 13th minute, Dipankar Baral was gifted with United SC’s first major chance. He outwitted his marker but his angled shot missed the target by inches.
Midway, Elite Academy almost scored the opener following a one-two between Joysana Singh and Edmund that saw the former at the receiving end. Singh lobbed past onrushing Aditya only for United SC defender Sujoy Oraow to clear the ball off the line to his side’s relief.
The final minutes of the half saw the United SC defence kept boiling following raids by the Elite Academy attackers, however, they held on as the first-half ended on a goalless scoreline.
United SC were the better team in the second half who were dominating the possession and pinning Elite Academy to their half with Manotosh Chakladar and Dipankar coming close a couple of times.
The Purple Brigade came closest in the 59th minute as Gaurab Das made a blistering run on the left mark before passing to an unmarked Rana Pandey, whose weak effort was easily collected by Avijit.
Though United SC remained in control but it was the Elite Academy who had the chance to go ahead in the 74th minute after Lalengzama beat a couple defenders on the right flank only to see his effort go off target from close range.
Thereafter, Elite Academy continued to press the United SC defence for the opener, however, the later defended gallantly to take the game into the penalties.
In a marathon tie-breaker where either team took 15 spot kicks apiece, Elite Academy, eventually, proved to be the better shooters.