The drive to succeed was writ large on East Bengal players’ faces as they scripted history of sorts after securing their maiden berth in the AFC Cup semi-finals, overcoming a spirited Semen Padang playing in front of a vociferous home crowd here on Tuesday.
The historic Indian club, tucked around the wide open spaces of maidans in Kolkata, advanced on aggregate (2-1) after holding Semen Padang to a 1-1 draw in the return leg quarterfinal at the Agus Salim Stadium.
Playing in front of a packed home crowd, the Indonesian outfit started out aggressively and led at the half-time, thanks to a 23rd minute strike by Andrew Wilson. But East Bengal, who needed just a draw to make the last-four, made a smart move by bringing in Baljit Singh Sahni whose measured cross saw substitute James Moga time his spot jump to perfection as he headed home the equaliser in the 78th minute.
For Joaquim Abranches and Abhijit Mondal, the success was sweeter as they were also part of the Dempo squad that had played in the semi-finals of the 2nd tier inter-continental club competition a few years ago. Dempo till now were the only Indian football club to have made the last-four of the AFC Cup.
East Bengal had won the first-leg at home courtesy a Ryuji Sueoka strike.
Having started the game, Sueoka could only last 43 minutes and it was the Japanese midfielder’s replacement, Moga, who struck the all-important goal.
Goan heavyweights Dempo had qualified for the AFC Cup semifinals in 2008.
East Bengal’s previous best show in the AFC Cup was in 2004 when Subhas Bhowmick guided the side to the quarter-finals.