IN ONE OF THE most remarkable comebacks in the recent history of Indian football, East Bengal fought back from a two goal deficit to beat NorthEast United in penalties at the first semi-final of the Durand Cup 2023.
Although the Red & Golds, buoyed by home support, did well throughout the game, NorthEast United were the ones who drew first blood. The talented youngster Phalguni Singh set up a beautiful short cross from the left that prompted a flying header from Zabaco to put the Highlanders ahead in the middle of the first half.
Phalguni himself scored early in the second half, in what was a brilliant solo strikes from the middle of a crowd of defenders.
At this point it appeared that EB were vanquished. But Carles Cuadrat's boys engineered a comeback that few could predict.
With 12 minutes of regulation time left, a shot from Mahesh was deflected off a defender and went into the net. And deep into the added time, Nandhakumar scored a nearly unbelievable equaliser to push the game into penalties.
This is where things fell apart for NEUFC. Parthib Gogoi had his shot saved by Gill, but he got a chance to re-take it and hit the crossbar. This miss defined the shootouts as EB converted every penalty to secure a 5-3 win.
East Bengal have reached the final where they will face the winner of the second semi-final between Mohun Bagan and FC Goa. If they win this game they will back their first major trophy in a decade.