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East Bengal lift ASEAN Cup
July 26, 2003 20:08 IST
Last Updated: July 26, 2003 22:12 IST
East Bengal scripted history on Saturday by becoming the first Indian club to win any Asian level football tournament when they demolished Thailand's BEC Terro Sasana 3-1 in the final of the LG ASEAN Cup in Jakarta.
The victory was even sweeter because BEC Terro is the champion club of Asia and had defeated East Bengal in the first league match of the tournament 1-0.
Burly Nigerian Mike Okoro opened the scoring for the red-gold brigade in the 30th minute, while Baichung Bhutia increased the tally in the 52nd minute before Alvito D'Cunha completed the rout in the 78th minute.
The lone goal for BEC Terro came in the 55th minute, through mid-fielder Anaikongopan.
Following this triumph, the Indian National Football League champions have played 93 matches against foreign teams, winning 44 and losing 27, with 22 games ending in stalemate. They have scored 153 goals while conceding 100 from opponents.
Bhutia emerged the highest scorer of the tournament with nine goals.
Bhutia, who was declared the man of the match, continued with his rich form and ended the tournament on a high with his solo second goal, which put the Thais firmly on the backfoot even as they were trying hard to nullify Okoro's strike.
On a quick counter attack, Bhutia snatched the ball from Thai defender Thanongsak Pajakkta after a one-to-one battle. He went inside the box, pulled the goalkeeper out of position, and regaining his step after a slip, found the net with a firm right foot shot.
The Geloran Senayan stadium once again turned out to be a lucky venue for Indian soccer, where India had won the Jakarta Asian Games gold medal in 1962.
The two teams began with a couple of raids on either end with Therdsak Chaiman, most valuable player of the tournament, and Okoro caught in the offside trap in the early minutes of the match.
Even as Sasana looked like taking control with greater possession with more of action in East Bengal's half, the Kolkatans came back with some intelligent bout of passing.
Soon East Bengal went into the lead through a snap goal that totally caught the Thais off guard in the 28th minute. Lurking near the rival danger area, Okoro latched on to a guided through pass from the centre circle by Brazilian Douglas De Silva. Wriggling for space between the rival defenders, Okoro, starting only his second match of the tournament, found the target with a powerful right footer that crashed into the net.
Returning from an injury and repaying coach Subash Bhowmich's faith in him, Okoro then ran to the sidelines and did a Bebeto style cradling. Soon the other players including Douglas, Bhutia, Alvito D'Cunha, skipper Suley Musah and Sashti Duley joined him in the celebration.
With their tails up East Bengal mounted further pressure but efforts by Surkumar Singh, Alvito and Duley did not bear fruit.
At the other end, Sasana were desperate to equalise before halftime and Nigerian Adu Sunday Omojola threatened twice but was crowded out by the alert East Bengal defenders.
In the first half injury time, Anuchai Katpongsri really threatened with a quick move, which the Indian team averted by conceding a corner kick.
Rattled, the Thais began the second session determined to make amends and immediately went in search of the equaliser. But Bhutia, who had other ideas, spoiled all their plans putting East Bengal 2-0 ahead three minutes into the half.
Five minutes later the Kolkatan outfit got a fine opportunity to increase the lead when Douglas put Bijen Singh through, but the Manipur lad's effort went just wide.
The Thais were now fighting with their backs to the wall and replaced Omojola with Wuttiya Yongant. The move paid off quickly as the substitute combined with Kongpaphan to pull his team back into the match with 32 minutes of play left.
The two played a brilliant one-two before Kongpaphan scored beating East Bengal custodian Sandip Nandy in the 58th minute.
The Thais, who upset Asia's star clubs en route to the AFC Champions league final, were now really on the boil and tried to even the contest.
Chaiman came close in the very next minute, but after surviving the onslaught for the next ten minutes Alvito left his indelible stamp on the final scoring with a thundering rightfooter from just outside the box.
Receiving the ball on his left leg, following a quick sally by Surkumar through the right, he quickly changed the ball to his favourite foot and blasted home giving no chance to goalkeeper Phansa Meesattham.