Mohun Bagan Super Giant defeats East Bengal courtesy of a Petratos strike to win the Durand Cup

MBSG Champions
Mohun Bagan Super Giant crowned champions of the 2023 Durand Cup

Mohun Bagan Super GIant took the bragging rights on offer as the Mariners won the final of the 132nd edition of the Durand Cup by defeating fellow ISL side East Bengal 1-0 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Kirirangan in Kolkata.

The Torchbearers were hoping to end their 11-year wait for a trophy in the tournament organised by the Indian armed forces but the 10-men MBSG side thwarted the East Bengal challenge courtesy of a goal by Dimitrios Petratos.

Juan Ferrando made only a single change for Mohun Bagan SG as he brought in the semi-final’s match-winner Armando Sadiku in place of Jason Cummings.

On the other hand, Carles Cuadrat rung two changes with Mohammed Rakip and Borja Herrera coming in for the duo of Nishu Kumar and Jose Pardo.

After a slow start that involved several mini-battles on the field including Harmanjot Khabra vs Sahal Abdul Samad which proved to be very interesting as the two ex-Kerala Blasters’ players were going at it since the first minute.

In the 22nd minute, Saul Crespo started dominating the proceedings for the Red and Gold Army as he won a free-kick which was conveniently wasted by Borja Herrera.

In the 28th minute, Ashique Kuruniyan decided to press Lalchununga and the central defender left the ball for his goalkeeper leaving him in a hole but Prabhsukhan Gill calmly chipped the ball over the former Bengaluru attacker.

Nandhakumar Sekar played a brilliant one-two with Javier Siverio before the former was tackled well by Anwar Ali inside the penalty box and stamped his dominance while the Torchbearers’ demands for a penalty fell on the referee’s deaf ears.

In the 34th minute, East Bengal’s title hopes were given a huge blow as Jordan Elsey went down injured and had to be replaced by Pardo. Cuadrat’s men were still proving to be the stronger side as Nandhakumar Sekar’s volley travelled over the goalkeeper’s head in the 43rd minute after a brilliant attacking move.

Emotions got in the way and things got heated up in the additional time of the first half as Saul Crespo, Borja Herrera, Hugo Boumous, and Anirudh Thapa were shown yellow cards in a space of 90 seconds.

The fans got to witness some actual football before the half-time whistle as Sahal found Petratos in acres of space before the latter’s powerful shot just went over the crossbar by a few centimeters.

East Bengal started having more of the ball in the second half but Saul fouled Armando Sadiku in front of East Bengal head coach Carles Cuadrat who claimed a dive and was correctly shown a yellow card by the referee. After the yellow card was shown to him, Cuadrat responded by bringing on Cleiton Silva for Borja Herrera as his first change of the evening.

Ferrando responded by bringing on Manvir Singh for Asish Rai and changed the formation to 3-5-2 which allowed Petratos to play as a striker alongside Sadiku.

In the 60th minute, Manvir made an immediate impact as he found Boumous lurking in the penalty box but the former Goa and Mumbai City forward failed to test the goalkeeper once again with his shot disappointingly going off target.

In the next minute, Thapa was shown a second yellow card for a high-boot challenge on Siverio and the former Chennaiyin skipper had to leave the field leaving the Mariners with only 10 men on the pitch.

Taking advantage of having one more player on the field, Cuadrat’s men took control of the proceedings and Naorem Mahesh tried his luck from a long range in the 65th minute but Vishal Kaith made the save.

Kaith was given more work a couple of minutes later as first parried away a cross from Mandar Rao Dessai and then Nadhakumar set up Silva whose shot was pushed behind for a corner by the former Chennaiyin goalkeeper.

Dimitri Petratos was the hero of the match for the Mariners

In the 71st minute, substitute Cummings collected the ball in his own half and teed up Petratos after moving 12 yards and the East Bengal defense kept backing off allowing the Australian to comfortably shift on his left foot and find the back of the net after a slight deflection from Pardo.

A couple of minutes after the restart, Naorem Mahesh found the unmarked Nandhakumar outside the six-yard area but his header was straight at Kaith.

Cuadrat responded by making a trio of changes as Nishu, VP Suhair, and Edwin Sydney Vanspaul were brought in for Mandar, Siverio, and Lalchununga.

After nine minutes were added to the clock by the fourth referee, East Bengal kept wasting attacking opportunities by floating one bad cross after another and Dimas Delgado lost the plot on the touchline as the former Bengaluru midfielder was shown a red card by the referee for indulging in an argument with Ferrando off the pitch.

Vishal Kaith was awarded the Golden Glove of the tournament for keeping two clean sheets in a tournament that proved to be a goal-fest with one of those clean sheets coming in the pivotal final fixture against arch-rivals East Bengal.

David Lalhlasanga won the Golden Boot scoring 6 goals for Mohammedan with four of those coming in the match against Jamshedpur. Nandhakumar Sekar won the Golden Ball for putting in spirited performances throughout the cup competition and scoring or assisting whenever his side needed him to step up.

The 17-time Durand Cup champions will now shift their focus on preparations for the AFC Cup and the start of the 2023-24 Indian Super League season once the players return from their international duties.