Mohammedan Sporting delivered a commanding performance to defeat Mumbai Tigers 3-1 in the first semifinal of the 126th Durand Cup at the Ambedkar Stadium.
The Kolkata side played its best match of the tournament to outdo its free-scoring opponent.
Mumbai had accumulated 10 goals in its two group matches.
Both sides started with a single striker — Sporting set-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation while Mumbai employed a 4-1-4-1 system — as they looked to dominate the midfield.
The match could have turned to be a turgid tactical battle but Samson Ramagawia scored in the third minute from a deflected free-kick to give Sporting the early lead.
The goal ensured both sides found greater space in the opposition half.
Before the game, many wondered whether Sporting right back Collin Abranches’s regular forays on the wing would leave the defence exposed.
However, this was not to be due to a tactical adjustment by the opposition.
For Mumbai, Royston D’Souza started on the left, but was forced to maintain a narrow position as supporting striker Pradeep regularly drifted wide.
D’Souza helped out the central midfield duo of Lester Fernandez and Sehnaj Singh to combat Sporting’s central midfield unit of Ramagawia, Gagandeep Singh and Penn Orji. Abranches was hence free to attack on the right.
Though Mumbai introduced a wider player in Abhishek Ambekar for D’Souza in the 36th minute, Abranches remained relatively untroubled. In fact, in the first-half injury time, the right-back was found near the box by substitute Israil Gurung, and Abranches placed a left-footed shot past the flat-footed ’keeper T.P. Rehenesh.
Mumbai responded by moving Ambekar forward to play him as a second striker beside Bikash Jairu in the second half, the change being facilitated by substituting Pradeep for left-back Mohan Raj, and playing Zeeshan Rehman in the midfield.
However, the move proved futile as Sporting soon went 3-0 up as playmaker Antony Soren headed Gurung’s right-wing cross home.
Though Mumbai reduced the deficit 17 minutes later through Jairu’s seventh goal of the tournament, its challenge had been largely snuffed out by then.
Sporting will play either ONGC or Indian Navy in Thursday’s final.
Semifinal: Mohammedan Sporting Club 3 (Samson Ramagawia 3, Collin Abranches 45+2, Antony Soren 65) bt Mumbai Tigers 1 (Bikash Jairu 82).