"The trophy cabinet is complete.” This was how Dempo coach Armando Colaco summed up his team’s hard-fought 1-0 win over JCT in the Durand Cup final, their first title triumph in the tournament.
After doing the Federation Cup-National Football League double in 2004-05, the Durand was the only title to have eluded the Goans. Monday changed that, a Ranti Martins strike in the 75th minute settling the issue.
Though the match produced only one goal, there was no dearth of goalmouth action. As early as the 2nd minute, JCT had a great chance to open the scoring. Parveen Kumar was put through on goal by his strike partner Chidi Edeh, but the Punjab striker made a hash of the chance.
Dempo almost made JCT pay for the miss immediately through their skipper Beto. But the Brazilian’s rasping shot could only sting the hands of JCT ‘keeper Kalyan Chaubey.
The first-half was an end-to-end affair with neither team holding back. In the 18th minute, an attempted clearance from Dempo defender Valeriano Rebelo almost went horribly wrong, the ball bouncing off his knee and almost looping into the goal. However, goalkeeper Satish Kumar denied Rebelo the blushes with his fingertips. That was as close as JCT came to scoring in the first-half.
Dempo’s midfield trio of Jerry Ziranga, Beto and Isfaq Ahmed was controlling the pace of the game and Sukhwinder Singh was forced to change things around, taking off Nigerian midfielder Sunday Ambrose for Sukhjinder Singh in an attempt to add steel to the middle.
The absence of Clifford Miranda - who was serving a suspension - down the left flank didn’t prove to be too big a hole to fill, with Isfaq Ahmed commanding the wing with elan.
The second-half was a more sedate affair in comparison — the game transformed into a midfield battle, one where there was no clear winner. Both teams were tight at the back as they realised that a goal at this stage for the opposition would be decisive.
Then, with less than 20 minutes to go, Dempo scored. Beto wasn’t closed down and was allowed to run at the JCT defence. His pass found Ranti Martins, who turned his marker inside out and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
Jaswinder Singh had a great chance to draw his team level in injury time, but his shot — and with it JCT’s Durand hopes — went off target.