Right man at the right time, Ranti Martins dealt Kolkata’s pride a body blow, sending East Bengal out of the Peerless 28th Federation Cup on Saturday night. It is now Mohun Bagan’s responsibility to stop a west Indian sweep in the semifinals when they meet Churchill Brothers on Sunday.
Like in the first quarterfinal, this one too had a late goal. Too late for East Bengal to return the compliment. After the Durand Cup and the IFA Shield, their winter of discontent continued with an early exit here. They faded in and out of the second half after an even battle in the first but still had their moments.
Freddie Mascarenhas added bustle to the frontline and Shylo Malsawmtluanga’s shot was kept out by Sameer Naik after Dempo goalie Satish Kumar missed Dipankar Roy’s cross from the left. Questions will inevitably be asked about coach Carlos Perreira.
By putting more men in the middle, East Bengal stopped Dempo from taking control of the midfield but importantly failed to do so themselves too. As a consequence, there was little of organised, composed football from either team and in such situations, one mistake is usually enough.
Having done little of note till the 87th minute, Martins showed what opportunism is all about. He now has enough reasons to go downtown on a Saturday night. With Beto for company, he sliced through East Bengal’s defence and had a go which thudded into Naseem Akhtar’s chest before falling kindly for the Nigerian.
Without injured skipper Alvito d’Cunha out, East Bengal got Malsawtluanga to pull the midfield strings and it did not quite work. It also meant that East Bengal’s attacks were rather limited.