The Services side overcame NEROCA FC 6-5 from the spot…
Army Green secured their first Durand Cup triumph after defeating NEROCA FC 6-5 following a dramatic penalty shootout in the Final played at Ambedkar Stadium in the capital earlier today.
NEROCA started the better of the two sides but the first chance came the way of Green’s skipper Lallawmkima on 10 minutes as a cross from the right found him but his header went wide. The Manipur champions responded with an opportunity of their own on 18 minutes. Ashok Singh’s cross from the right was misjudged by the Army defense but Kshetrimayum Meitei’s half volley went over the bar. Five minutes later the Army skipper pounced onto a loose ball on the right flank, he took a first time shot on the angle but it skimmed over the bar. There was controversy on the half hour mark after Thokchom Johson Singh was brought down with a lunging tackle in the box just as he was about to shoot, but no penalty was given. The two Singhs combined once again four minutes later as Ashok found Sushil, but his header was straight at the keeper.
Ashok was in fine fettle in the first half as he found Thookchom on 40 minutes, but he couldn’t finish. The chances kept coming for NEROCA and three minutes before the break they were awarded a free-kick. It was cleverly clipped in and the knockdown fell for Visheshwar Singh, but his near post effort was well blocked by an Army defender.
NEROCA started the second half in much the same fashion as they did the first as Subhash Singh latched onto a ball on the left of the box but his shot went over the crossbar.
For much of the second 45 the game turned into a midfield scrap with the tempo slowing down as the Imphal side found it tough to penetrate the Army men. On the hour mark Herojit Singh, who was now moved to a more advanced role in search of a goal, tried his luck from a 25-yard free-kick but the keeper just watched it sail over. On 68 minutes Meitei’s cross from the left was punched by the Army keeper, but the loose ball fell to Sushil and he saw his acrobatic effort blocked by stalwart Herojit. InTO the final 15 minutes of the game and on 77 minutes, Sahanoos in the Army goal punched again. Ashok came in on the ball and his dipping effort from distance almost caught the shot-stopper off his line. Five minutes later another long shot came in from Meitei, but it was wayward to say the least. With both teams now looking out on their feet there was no further joy to be had as the game went into extra-time still deadlocked.
This was Army Green’s second ET affair in three days as their last four clash also went the distance and with tiredness understandably kicking in they seemed more than happy to take penalties. So, NEROCA’s dominance continued. In the 99th minute they forced four successive corners and of the last one substitute Longjam Gobin Singh missed a sitter. On 106 minutes Army responded with an effort of their own. Viktram Adhikari’s cross from the right produced a shot that saw NEROCA captain and keeper Lalit Thapa having to dive to his right to turn it behind for a corner. However, the best chance came the way of Sushil Singh with just two minutes remaining in the extra 30. An inch perfect cross from the left fell on a plate for him, but the experienced India international could not keep his header down from point blank range.
To penalties we went and it was 4-4 after five spot-kicks each. Into sudden death and Longjam’s strike rattled the crossbar leaving Adhikari to convert, sending his side into raptures.
Herojit was the pick of the performers for Army Green as he was a rock at the back and incisive in attack. Liberian defender Kallon Varne also had a good game for NEROCA. The Northeast team came into the match as favourites and they will look back on the sloppy finishing as a key preseason for defeat on the night.
Report by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.