Kolkata: East Bengal reached the final of the U-18 I-League for the first time, all thanks to a hard fought 3-2 win over Salgaocar FC in their semi-final clash at the Barasat Stadium today.
Striker Telem Suranjit Singh’s brace plus a goal from Bidyashagar Singh was all that the Red & Golds needed to set up a meeting with defending champions AIFF Elite Academy in Sunday’s grand final, before Andrus John and Liston Colaco pulled a couple of goals back for Salgaocar.
East Bengal started off brightly and created some half chances early on through skipper Lalcchanhima and Suranjit, but the duo failed to capitalise.
However, it did not take long for East Bengal to find the breakthrough as Suranjit slotted past Salgaocar keeper Nora Fernandes from Manoj Mohammad’s pass in the 13th minute.
The goal appeared to awaken the Goan side who almost responded six minutes later but Liston’s shot from close missed the target to the relief of the Red and Golds.
East Bengal, on the other hand, had their chances through Jhantu Prasad and Lalcchanhima to go further up but Salgaocar defended deep and did not allow their rival attackers to manoeuvre inside their territory.
East Bengal’s pressure finally paid off two minutes from half-time as Bidyashagar scored from Prakash Sarkar’s pass to give his team a two-goal lead going into the breather.
Changing over, East Bengal returned stronger and dominated possession entirely by creating a couple of close chances. Yami Longvah was guilty failing to convert some decent chances in the 49th minute and six minutes later.
East Bengal finally added their third at the hour mark as Suranjit completed his brace with a superb finish from Manoj’s accurate pass inside the box.
Meanwhile, Salgaocar did not go down without a fight as the Levino Anthony Perreira coached side kept the pressure on the East Bengal backline with some well-orchestrated moves.
Kaushik Negi came close to scoring in the 71st minutes before East Bengal keeper Sovan Biswas dived to deny Negi, who was put through by Liston.
The goal finally came in the 80th minute when substitute Andrus tucked home the rebound after Devendra Murgaokar’s initial shot came off the body of an East Bengal defender.
Having drawn the first blood, Salgaocar applied more pressure on the East Bengal defence and their pressure yielded another goal in the 86th minute as Liston scored a brilliant solo goal.
The Greens lifted up their game in the final minutes but their efforts of scoring the equaliser produced no dividends as East Bengal secured a well deserved 3-2 victory.
The final clash between the defending champions AIFF Elite Academy and East Bengal will take place at the Barasat Stadium at 03:30 PM on Sunday (May 7, 2017).