The Durand Cup final panned out to be quite a mediocre affair but Chirag United didn’t mind as long as they landed their first national level trophy since their promotion to the I-League in 2008.
While the crowd swelled considerably to watch JCT take on the Kolkata team, one couldn’t help but feel a hint of disappointment with the poor display at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Mohammed Rafique was the usual suspect again, beautifully placing the ball in the far corner of the net off Josimar Martins’s pass from the right. Rafique, a new entrant in this season’s Chirag United squad, had also scored the winner against East Bengal in the semi-final on Thursday.
Both teams started out positively. Chirag in particular started on bright note with right-back Subhasish Roy Chowdhury and right-side midfielder Subhash Chakraborty combining well on the flanks. But as the game wore on, both teams’ defensive approach came to the fore.
Chirag United had a chance in the 11th minute but Rafique headed the ball over the JCT goalmouth from a well calculated cross from Narugopal Hait.
Hait kept exposing the chinks in the JCT defence as he ran circles around Rahul Kumar who, up until now, had been a rock in the JCT back-line along with Omalaja Kareem.
JCT, committing a host of mistakes in the passing department, seemed to overcome their nervous start when captain Daljit Singh’s free-kick was chested down by Daniel Bidemi who passed to an unmarked Baoru Ibrahim inside the box but the Nigerian forward failed to convert.
It was the story of the evening for JCT – to move ahead with through a mesh of passes only to fail upfront. In the 44th minute, Parveen Kumar and Bidemi played a quick one-two, leaving the latter open with just Chirag goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal to beat. However, he hesitated and Hait cleared it.
Chirag United defender Chika Wali — a major factor behind Chirag United not conceding a single goal in this tourney — was replaced by Ajay Singh after the breather but JCT couldn’t capitalise on that.
Rafique eventually found the back of the net in 76th minute.
Denson Devadas’s lob from the middle found Martins — later adjudged ‘Man of the Tournament’ — in the box and the Brazilian brushed aside JCT left-back Lal Chhuanmawia’s challenge to set up Rafique whose right-footed strike into the top-left painted the Durand Cup a hearty purple.