Reigning champions Churchill Brothers were knocked out by a determined JCT side in the first semi-final of the Durand Cup at the Ambedkar Stadium on Wednesday.
Right-side midfielder Amandeep Singh, who had threatened from the start, nicked in a long ball from Daniel Bidemi over the head of goalkeeper Vinay Singh after outpacing defender Warun Deep in a diagonal run from the centre of the Churchill Brothers’ box in the 101st minute.
The tie started on a disappointing note with both sides engaging in the midfield and making few forays into the final third through the first half.
JCT dominated possession with Maninder Singh creating space to feed Bidemi and Baoru Ibrahim and their defenders Omalaja Kareem and Rahul Kumar kept the Nigerian goal-scoring machine called Okolie Odafa in check.
Churchill Brothers stepped up the tempo in the second half. Israil Gurung struck the horizontal with a thundering shot outside the box in the 54th minute but Odafa failed to capitalise on rebound.
Goalkeper Pawan Kumar had kept JCT in the game with crucial saves. Durga Boro, who came on for Churchill Brothers in the 33rd minute after Bineesh Balan took a knock, nearly scored off a clever back-header in the 56th minute but Kumar made the stop look easy.
Kumar was tested again in the 63rd minute when Charan Rai struck low but the plucky keeper dived to the right and parried it away. Churchill’s onslaught on the JCT goal seemed relentless with Lenny Rodrigues being denied by the crossbar in the next minute.
Odafa then squandered the best chance of the game in the final minute when he smashed Zakeer M.P.’s delightful through ball over the top.
Singh’s strike in extra-time thus proved decisive and knocked the current Durand Cup holders out of contention. This will be JCT’s first final since 2006 when they lost to Goa’s Dempo.
They will now face the victors of Thursday’s second semi-final, between East Bengal and Chirag United.