East Bengal march into final

Yakubu, Hussain strike as Bhutias men prevail over Mohun Bagan

East Bengal march into final

 East Bengal’s Bhaichung Bhutia (left) and Mehtab Hussain celebrate their team’s semifinal win over Mohun Bagan in the Federation Cup in Guwahati on Thursday. East Bengal won 2-0. PTI

Veteran striker Yusif Yakubu (56th) and Mehtab Hussain (89th) scored for the winners at the Nehru Stadium. Mohun Bagan talisman Jose Ramirez Barretto failed to convert a penalty kick in the 33rd minute and that proved a fatal mistake.

East Bengal will now take on Lajong in the summit clash on January 3 and the winner will qualify for the 2010 AFC Cup.

This will be East Bengal’s 13th final appearance in the country’s top league-cum-knockout tournament, four less than Mohun Bagan, who have won the title a record 13 times.

East Bengal defence marshalled by Uga Okpara, which has not conceded a single goal in the tournament so far, continued their good work and kept a check at Mohun Bagan strike duo of Barretto and Chidi Edeh.

East Bengal, who had lost 3-5 in an I-League match in the last meeting between the two sides, took the intitaive early into the match with Alvito D’Cunha in the thick of things.

In the fourth minute, Alvito sent a curling left footer inside the Bagan box and Nirmal Chetri connected it well but an alert goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee flicked it over the woodwork for a corner.

Ten minutes later, Alvito sent a superb left-footed free-kick but Yakubu failed to connect it just by inches.

Mohun Bagan’s Japanese midfielder Ryuji Sueoka got a chance in the 21st minute but his header off a Barreto cross was saved by a diving Abhra Mondal.

Barretto missed another Mohun Bagan chance in the 24th minute but that paled into comparison with the penalty miss by the Brazillian in the 33rd minute after Ishaq Ahmed was brought down inside the East Bengal box by Rahim Nabi. Barretto’s right footer from the spot went wide.

After resumption, it was still difficult to seperate the better side between the two before Yakubu drew the first blood for East Bengal in the 56th minute with a soft goal.

The veteran slotted the ball home with his right foot off a corner by Sanju Pradhan.
Star striker and India captain Bhaichung Bhutia came in at the 78th minute in place of Subhash Singh and set up the winning goal for East Bengal by Mehtab Hussain a minute from the final whistle.

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