Principal Correspondent

KOLKATA: Chirag United SC defeated East Bengal 4-2 at the Vidyasagar Stadium (Barasat) and Pune FC beat Senegalese visitor AS Douanes 2-0 at the Mohun Bagan ground in two different group league encounters of the 114th edition of the IFA Shield on Saturday.

The day went with the relative underdogs as favourites faced a reverse, upsetting the calculations. Pune FC’s win helped its Mumbai neighbour Air India, which became the group ‘D’ topper and made it to the semifinals.

Chirag pulled off a last-gasp goal against three-time National league champion East Bengal, scoring one in the 89th minute to book its place in the knockout stage from group ‘A’.

Statistics plays its part

Things would have been easier in group ‘A’ but the last goal that Chirag scored brought statistics into play.

At the conclusion of their group league fixtures, Chirag and TFA were tied on four points each, gained from the 1-1 draw played out against each other and their respective wins over East Bengal. The two teams were even tied on goal difference with an average of +2 each.

Finally, Chirag sailed through, having scored more goals — five against TFAs four — leaving TFA out of the tournament.

East Bengal, with a record of winning the tournament for the highest number of times (27), had one of its worst outings, losing the second successive match of the season.

Midfielder S. Malswamtluanga, a long-time East Bengal player who switched over this season, scored twice while Parveen Kumar and Brazilian Joshimar Da Silva scored once each for Chirag. Riston Rodrigues and Subhas Singh scored for East Bengal.

Taking the lead

Knowing well that only a big win could give it a place in the semifinals, Chirag found the lead in the ninth minute when Malswamtluanga produced a brilliant finish. Chirag doubled its lead in the 18th minute when Parveen scored from a Joshimar assist.

East Bengal came back strongly to draw level. Riston then made it 2-1 with a brilliant freekick before Subhas found the net again in the 42nd minute as the first session ended at 2-2.

Chirag redoubled its efforts after the break and it paid off when Malswamtluanga put it ahead in the 75th minute (3-2). Joshimar’s solo effort in the 89th minute (4-2) was an icing the cake as it helped enter the semifinals of a major national tournament.

Pune FC made the most of slushy conditions at the Mohun Bagan ground. AS Douanes had a torrid time as its players kept slipping and falling as the Pune side pumped in two goals in the first session itself. Izumi Arata and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored in the 30th and 37th giving Pune FC, which did well in launching effective counter-attacks, the decisive lead.

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