Even before the hello, Armando Colaco’s voice rang out clear. “I have always maintained that Indian clubs can play the final of the AFC Cup and I want East Bengal to prove me right,” said the man who took Dempo to the semi-finals five years before East Bengal did on Tuesday.Colaco told HT over the phone from Panaji that East Bengal would need to up their game in the next round where they are likely to play Al-Kuwait, away on October 1 and at home on October 22. "Against a team from west Asia, your strength and endurance will matter. East Bengal have some big boys in Uga (Okpara), (Edeh) Chidi, (James) Moga and even (Joaquim) Abranches. Let’s hope they can do it."
Subhas Bhowmick, who won the ASEAN Cup with East Bengal in 2003, said: “East Bengal’s tactical ability would hold the key. The only thing East Bengal can work on between now and the semi-final is their shape. And they can’t afford to concede possession this easily.”
At a packed Haji Agus Salim stadium in Padang, Semen Padang could have scored inside the first minute had Edward Wilson not gone over. They did when Gurpreet Singh’s botched goalkick became an unexpected gift for Wilson.
Gurpreet though denied Vendry Moro late in the first half and in the 74th minute. Four minutes later, two substitutes combined to take East Bengal to the semi-final of an Asian tournament for the first time in 93 years of being a football club — breaking away, Baljeet Sahni latched on to a lob and crossed for James Moga to head home.