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East Bengal in ASEAN semis

Last updated on: July 21, 2003 17:58 IST

India's National Football League champions East Bengal beat Persita Tangerang 2-1 to storm into the semi-finals of the ASEAN club football championship in Jakarta on Monday.

After a goalless first-half, East Bengal went up through Baichung Bhutia in the 54th minute, but Ilham Jaya Kusuma converted a penalty 12 minutes later to restore parity.

Substitute Bijen Singh scored with a flying header in the 77th minute to seal the fate of the Indonesian league runners-up.

The Kolkatans, an invitational side in the South-east Asian tournament, will take on Indonesian champions Petrokimia Putra in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Putra beat Armed Forces, Singapore, 3-2 in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

A controversial penalty-kick equaliser in the second-half did not deter the Indian champions. It was a debatable decision by the referee after East Bengal goalkeeper Sandip Nandy dived forward inside the box to thwart an advancing rival forward. The referee straightaway pointed to the spot, ignoring angry protests by the East Bengal players. As a result, Bhutia was booked for arguing.

The Sikkimese ace, who had earlier put his team into the lead in the 54th minute, just could not digest the referee's decision and slapped an opponent.

Even as it looked like the Kolkatans would allow themselves to be disturbed by the incident, Bijen Singh, who came in as a substitute in the 67th minute, scored with a flying header in the 77th minute, connecting a measured cross from Surkumar Singh, who made a run down the right flank.

In a goalless first-half, East Bengal medio Debjit Ghosh had to be stretchered out to an ambulance and taken to hospital after colliding with Persita's Zaenal Arif.

The freak incident occured in the 42nd minute immediately after defender M Suresh tested the Persita goalkeeper with a long ranger.

Just inside the East Bengal half Debjit and Persita's Zaenal Arif, who scored four goals against a Laos club, leapt to head a high ball and while coming down Arif crashed into the back of Debjit's head. The Indian medio went down with a thud. He lay unconscious for a few minutes and was shifted to an ambulance. Para-medics and players from both sides tried to give him artificial respiration by pumping his heart.

Shylo Malsawmtluanga came in for Debjit when the game restarted after seven minutes.

The second-half began with a flurry of raids by both teams and the quick Persita forwards stretched the East Bengal defence with their silken skills.

At the other end, Alvito D'Cunha and Bhutia came up with a quick one-two, but D'Cunha, in his shooting stride inside the rival box, was disposessed.

Soon the first goal came. It was created by Douglas De Silva, who ruled the midfield today. Speeding down the left flank, the Brazilian from Sao Paulo sent in a good cross which was converted by Bhutia with a classical header, giving no chance to his marker, two other defenders and the goalkeeper.

It was Bhutia's sixth goal in three matches after scoring five in the last match against Army FC, Philippines.

Persita's luck arrived in the form of the penalty and Ilham Jaya Kusuma deposited the ball in the right corner of the cage, to make it 1-1 in the 66th minute, just past a diving Nandy's finger tips.

A minute later, East Bengal coach Subash Bhowmick introduced Bijen Singh in place of D'Cunha and the player from the North-East played his heart out.

With Persita trying to make the most out of an agitated East Bengal, Surkumar Singh came up with a blistering run down the right flank and found Bijen Singh, who ran to the middle of the box, jumped high and headed in to the goal to make it 2-1.

Persita soon threw in the towel as East Bengal bolstered their defence, pulling back skipper Suley Musah, who began the match supporting Bhutia upfront.

In the semi-finals on Thursday, East Bengal will take on another Indonesian team, Petrokimia Putra, who beat Armed Forces, Singapore, 3-2 in yesterday's quarter-final.

The second semi-final will see Malaysian side Perak taking on the winners of the last quarter-final between BEC Tero Sasana, Thailand and HAGL, Vietnam.

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