As darkness descended upon Kolkata, Mohammedan SC and FC Bengaluru United faced off in the semi-final at the Yuva Bharti Krirangan on Monday.
With clouds in the skies and fans, back in the stands in numbers after ages in Kolkata, were stunned into silence as their former star Pedro Mazi struck like thunder with a goal straight from kick-off after a lightning-fast break down the right flank from Yumnam Gopi Singh.
And then it rained, goals on the field and love from the stands.
The Black Panthers were hurt but not out. In the 9th minute, Mohammedan equalised as Marcus Leric Jr Joseph finished from a tight angle after a consistent spell of pressure. Another goal from Marcus Joseph, netted with a shot across goal with his left foot - his fifth in the 130th edition of the Durand Cup and putting him in running for the golden boot of the tournament for the second year running.
FCBU’s Luka Majcen had a golden chance to restore their lead in the 30th minute of the game as he found himself one on one with the keeper but shot wide. In the 37th minute, Faisal Ali raced down the right flank and danced past his marker to slot the ball calmly back across the goal past Kunzang Bhutia and into the net to hand MSC the lead.
Both teams had chances to make a mark on the scoreline on either side of the half-time whistle, but goalmouth follies and last-ditch tackles left eager supporters wondering ‘what if’.
In the 70th minute, Marcus Joseph chested down a goal kick and passed it onto the left for Faisal, who in turn returned the favour. The Trinidad and Tobago forward Nikola Stojanovic, who sidestepped a Bengaluru United player to take a shot, which was blocked but the ball fell lat the feet of Faisal, who tried to find the back of the net but this time flashed agonisingly wide.
Kinshuk Debnath brought parity for Bengaluru United, in the 78th minute, with a vicious left-footed strike as the ball pinged around the penalty box from a well-placed corner.
In the first minute of stoppage time after 90 minutes, Pedro Mazi was shown a second yellow for trying to handle the ball in the penalty box as he went up for an offensive header. He had got his first yellow for showing dissent on multiple occasions.
Brandon Vanlalremdika found the back of the net from a Marcus Joseph shot that was saved by the keeper but it was deemed off-side. The Mohammedan fans made their displeasure known instantly. They were growing impatient and soon the floodgates opened.
Brandon Vanlalremdika scored the all-important goal in the 103rd with a well-placed shot, shrugging off challenges from two FCBU defenders, after being released by Nikola Stojanovic. After scoring, Brandon took off his shirt and ran towards the Black Panthers fans, soaking in the raining applause.
At the start of the second half for extra time, Stojanovic waved to fans to turn up the volume. And they did. Every pass was cheered, every tackle applauded.
In the 110th minute, Stojanovic earned Mohammedan SC a penalty when his shot hit Bengaluru’s team fitness coach cum player Chelston Pinto on the hand. The Serbian stepped up and slotted home to make it 4-2 in his team’s favour as the fans showered their captain with love.
With that the two-time Durand Cup winners, the first Indian team to win the tournament in 1940 and most recently in 2013, booked their place in the final of the 130th edition.