Photograph: Kind Courtesy AIFF/X (formerly Twitter)
A moment of sheer brilliance from Dimitri Petratos proved decisive as 10-man Mohun Bagan Super Giant beat arch-rivals East Bengal 1-0 in a fiercely contested final to clinch Durand Cup title for the first time after 23 years in Kolkata on Sunday.
Mohun Bagan were one-man down after Anirudh Thapa was sent off in the 62nd minute, but they still scored the decisive goal through a brilliant solo effort from Petratos in the 71st minute.
In a swift counter-attacking move, the Australian player skilfully weaved past the East Bengal defence, before unleashing a powerful strike from 25 yards out. East Bengal goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill was left a mute spectator.
This was Mohun Bagan’s 17th Durand Cup title. They last won the title in 2000 when they beat Mahindra United via a golden goal.
As the clock ticked away, East Bengal coach Carles Cuadrat made three changes, bringing in Nishu Kumar, VP Suhair and Edwin Vanspaul in the last 10 minutes in a bid to restore parity.
His Mohun Bagan counterpart Juan Ferrando pressed eight players into his defence with Anwar Ali rock solid in the middle.
In a heated exchange, East Bengal’s assistant coach Dimas Delgado got into a war of words with Ferrando, and after a scuffle, the former received a red card in the second-half extra time.
In the 86th minute, Edwin Vanspaul attempted a shot on target from outside the box, but Anwar Ali was quick to react, making a timely block to deny East Bengal any chance of an equaliser.
Mohun Bagan thus avenged their 2004 Durand Cup final defeat to East Bengal when they had lost 1-2.
In this phase, Mohun Bagan had lost three Durand Cup finals, the last being against Gokulam Kerala (1-2) in 2019.
From East Bengal’s perspective, a national-level title continued to elude them for more than 11 years now. Their last title at senior-level remains the Federation Cup in 2012.
Both sides came close to scoring but none could make use of their chances to see a goal-less first 45 minutes.
Sahal Abdul Samad got the ball at the edge of the box. Since he was surrounded, he got it to Petratos in front of him with a straight pass and the Australian tried a shot. But the ball flies just over the crosspiece in the first-half injury time.
Just before that, last derby hero Nandhakumar Sekar and Siverio failed to strike from two back-to-back chances after East Bengal attacked on the counter with Rakip and Borja combining on the right flank.
At the hour mark, Mohun Bagan missed a sitter with Hugo Boumous fluffing it in front of the goal post.
Petratos delivered a high ball to Manvir on the right, as the second-half substitute who replaced an off-color Ashish Rai, set it up perfectly for Hugo inside the box.
But Hugo made a mess of an easy finish and the goal-less stalemate continued.
Just two minutes later, Mohun Bagan were reduced to 10 players when Anirudh Thapa was sent off for his tackle on Siverio.
The India midfielder tried to get the possession of an aerial ball and his high boot hit the Spaniard on his head in a tackle that seemed purely unintentional.
But the East Bengal forward went down wreathing in pain and Thapa was shown his second yellow card by referee Rahul Gupta.