East Bengal rode Lalrindika Ralte’s goal in the 110th minute of extra-time to outlast the challenge of 10-man Churchill Brothers in the first semifinal of the 34th Federation Cup at the Kanchanjungha Stadium. Ralte, who came in as a substitute in the 91st minute after an unproductive 90 minutes of regulation time, created the difference with a spectacular shot to help East Bengal enter its fourth consecutive final entry.
East Bengal will now take on the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between Dempo SC and Salgaocar SC, in the final on Sunday. East Bengal started overtly defensive and stymied the initial exuberance of Churchill Brothers. The Kolkata side reconstructed its attack after the break and played a nice tactical game to ensure the win in the extra-time.
Coming in for Harmanjot Khabra in the East Bengal midfield, Ralte fired an angular right-footer that beat the Churchill Brothers custodian Sandip Nandy all ends up. Ralte was reached unmarked in Churchill box by a smart header from Nigerian Orji Penn, who brought down a freekick from Mehtab Hussain. Churchill was reduced to 10 men in the 113th minute when its substitute midfielder Israil Gurung sent off with a red card for a foul on the East Bengal midfielder Sanju Pradhan.
The first and second half remained barren as both the side tried abortively to breach each other’s defence. East Bengal forwards Edeh Chdi, Manandeep Singh and substitute Baljit Singh Sahni could not be sharp enough. Finally, Ralte produced the intended finish which brought an end to a protracted action, which seldom rose above mediocrity.