The southerns will now contest the tournament’s showpiece on Saturday.

East Bengal bowed out of the Durand Cup 2019 after falling to a 1-1 (2-3) loss in a penalty shootout to Gokulam Kerala at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. Ubaid CK came back to haunt the visitors with a string of solid penalty saves to effectively win his side the game, after Samad Ali Mallick and Marcus Joseph’s goals canceled each other out in normal time.

Alejandro Menendez was asked whether his side were unlucky to lose the game and explained, “I think we were better when leading 1-0, when we were controlling the game. In the second half, we had the ball lesser than the first. We did get some chances to score the second one when the score was 1-0.

We worked very hard in keeping the score like that, but the penalty changed the game for us. It was a clear penalty in injury-time. “

The Spaniard remained upbeat about his team’s performance and praised their performance-levels. He said, “I must congratulate my team because only after a month’s training we were able to keep the game level for 33 minutes with one player less.”

When asked about his side’s poor performance in the penalty shootout he said, “For the penalties, I told the players you are very tired after playing so long. When they are lacking energy, they lose the strength with shooting the penalty kicks. The fatigue problem affected our penalty shootout.

Menendez also hailed his side’s performance throughout the match and expressed his satisfaction by saying, “I am really satisfied with all of them. The goal today has been in a penalty with two very good strikers for them. We really controlled the process and the chances only took place from outside the box. But, we are really happy with the performance.”

Fernando Valera cut a happy figure after the game and when asked about which side he prefers to face in the final he reiterated, “We need to be prepared for whoever plays in the final. We need to correct some mistakes from this match. We need to feel proud about these bunch of players and every time during the match they did everything for the badge.”

Gokulam Kerala came out a different unit in the second half. Valera was asked whether he gave some extra tips to motivate them after the break and whether Bruno Pelissari played a big part in the turnaround.

He said, “We were thinking about how we need to play against East Bengal and how we needed to prepare for the game. But, like all matches we needed to adapt to this game as well. Sometimes, we needed to play a little far and sometimes we needed go inside the box. Bruno is a very good player. With him, we win more possession in the middle. We can create more goalscoring opportunities with him playing.”

When asked about whether he thought about putting the game to bed in extra-time when East Bengal were down to 10 men he said, “We needed to finish before the penalty shootout. But, we needed to be prepared for what happened if the penalties happened.”

Meanwhile, Man of the Match Ubaid CK was asked about whether this was sweet vengeance for East Bengal abandoning him earlier this year. He calmly explained, “This isn’t revenge, as East Bengal gave everything for me. When I came here, I was nothing. These fans gave everything for me and I always maintain respect for East Bengal.”