Mohammedan Sporting won the Durand Cup for the first time in 73 years as it defeated ONGC 2-1 in the final at the Ambedkar Stadium on Thursday.
Interestingly, the Kolkata side had triumphed by the same score against Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the 1940 final.
Both sides adopted a cautious approach which resulted in a tight encounter with few clear-cut chances. Sporting coach Masood Abdul Aziz Bola was forced to start Tolgay Ozbey as star playmaker Penn Orji was suffering from a knock to his right knee.
The Australian had not featured for the I-League team since the first group match, but justified his selection with a goal and assist.
Both teams deployed their usual formations — 4-2-3-1 for Sporting and 5-3-2 for ONGC. With Ozbey playing as the lone striker, Bola shifted Ajay Singh to the right and moved Antony Soren into the attacking midfield slot. ONGC coach C. Pinho, contrastingly, made alterations to his defence as he replaced suspended Karan Atwal with Bimal Minj.
Minj played as a left-wing back since Lalchhuanawma was moved into the centre.
ONGC missed the first clear chance of the match when Henry Ezeh shot over from five yards after a corner.
In the 13th minute, the Nigerian was through on goal, but Sporting ’keeper Somnath Khara tipped over his rising shot from 15 yards.
Sporting, though, increasingly began to exploit the space left behind by the wing-backs.
Its attempts gained fruition in the 36th minute when Tolgay ran from the left and cut the ball back into the six-yard box. Antony Soren slid in to finish the move past goalkeeper Bilifang Narzary.
Nine minutes later, Ajay Singh initiated another attack from the left. This time, his cutback was collected on the edge of the box by Ozbey, who took a touch before powering home a right-footed strike.
ONGC, though, returned in the second half with a renewed sense of purpose.
In the 56th minute, the Mumbai-based team was back in the contest as Asim Hassan’s low free-kick from 25 yards was poorly handled by Khara and the rebound was headed home by Lavino Fernandes. Sporting then slowed the game down to quell the opposition’s challenge.
ONGC missed a great opportunity to equalise two minutes from normal time when Ezeh’s bullet header from a corner was excellently parried by Khara.
The action resulted in a horrific elbow injury to defender Luciano Sabrosa, but Sporting battled last-minute nerves to earn the victory and Rs. 25 lakhs.
The result: Final: Mohammedan Sporting 2 (Antony Soren 36, Tolgay Ozbey 45) bt ONGC 1 (Lavino Fernandes 56).