Bhawanipur edged out Air India 4-3 in a thriller at the 126th Durand Cup on Sunday, but failed to reach the semifinals. Needing to win its final Group II fixture by a two-goal margin, the Kolkata side threw away a 2-0 lead and actually trailed 2-3 before completing a successful comeback.

Indian Navy plays ONGC in the second semifinal on Tuesday at Bhawanipur’s expense. The men in blue progressed to the last four by virtue of a better goal-difference.

Bhawanipur, though, had only itself to blame. The Bengal side began with star forward Jose Barreto missing an easy chance after going past the ’keeper.

The opening goal arrived in the 25th minute when right-winger Saikat Rao ran to the byline and cut the ball back for Snehasish Dutta to score.

Snehasish increased his side’s lead 15 minutes later as he converted a second-timer from close range off a Frances Xavier corner. However, a lapse in concentration allowed Jony Chand Singh to pull one back for Air India in the first half injury time.

The substitution of centre-back Jony Routa 10 minutes into the second half hurt Bhawanipur greatly as A. Sudeesh scored twice within two minutes.

First, the forward tapped-in a rebound after Jony Chand’s shot was blocked by the ’keeper, and then followed it up with a chipped finish.

Stung by the double strike, Bhawanipur fought hard but failed to find spaces in Air India’s five-man defence. The Bengal side finally got the equaliser in the 78th minute when Manjit Singh headed a right-wing cross home.

Though its exit had already been confirmed, Air India held on admirably until a controversial handball decision deep into injury time gave the opposition a penalty. Barreto easily converted from the spot, but the rally had arrived too late.

The results: Bhawanipur FC 4 (Snehasish Dutta 25, 40, Manjit Singh 78, Jose Barreto pen 90+3) bt Air India 3 (Jony Chand Singh 45+3, A. Sudheesh 58, 59).

Keywords: Durand Cup

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