The durand Cup final on Monday promises to be a close affair between two evenly matched teams in JCT and Dempo. Between the two of them, they have conceded only one goal and the match will likely be decided by the narrowest of margins.
While JCT are yet to concede a goal, the Dempo defence have let in just the one goal. With the physical presence of Anwar and Harpreet Singh in central defence and Nigerian powerhouse Sunday Ambrose patrolling the area just in front of the back four, teams have found it very hard to breach the JCT defence. In the final, the defence will be up against the pacy duo of Ranti Martins and Anthony Pereira, a combination they successfully thwarted in the quarterfinal league match between the two.
Similarly, Dempo also have a parsimonious back-line, one that is marshalled with authority by Samir Naik and Nigerian Meteck Bolaji. The two were instrumental in closing down the dangerous Mohun Bagan striker Jose Barreto in the semifinal and would be expected to do a similar job on JCT striker Chidi Edeh.
In the midfield, JCT coach Sukhwinder Singh would employ Ambrose to close down Dempo's playmaker, Beto. The Brazilian was in inspirational form in the semifinal against Mohun Bagan and his coach, Armando Colaco, would be hoping for an encore from his captain.
This battle between Ambrose and Beto could well decide where the Cup is headed to, Punjab or Goa. Dempo will severely miss the services of outstanding left-winger Clifford Miranda, who is serving a suspension. The Goan has been a constant threat to the opposition with his darting runs down the flank. Dempo, who are looking for their maiden Durand title, would be coming hard at their opposition, if Beto can combine with the fleet-footed Jerry Ziranga and produce the right kind of service through to the strikers, Ranti Martins and Anthony Pereira up front JCT will have their task cut out.
The Millmen, on the other hand, have five titles to their name. With the likes of Sukhjinder Singh — who set-up the winner against Sporting Clube De Goa in the semifinal — and the experienced Renedy Singh, JCT's bench looks distinctly stronger than their opponents'. In this otherwise close match-up, this is one area where JCT seem to hold an advantage.
Though the teams played out a dour 1-1 draw in the quarterfinal league, the final promises to be a different, spicier affair.
An intriguing final awaits.