Mohun Bagan and Mahindra United will clash in the final of the 112th IFA Shield football tournament. Both earned a place in the title round after posting 1-0 victories in the semi-finals at the Salt Lake stadium on Kolkata on Wednesday.
In the first semi final, Lal Kamal Bhowmick scored the all-important goal in the second half to enable Mohun Bagan quell a strong challenge from Sporting Clube de Goa before around 60,000 spectators.
Later in the evening, Mahindra rode on a Sur Kumar Singh strike to scrape past a youthful Shenzhen Kingway of China.
Mahindra scored the winner in the 77th minute as the skilful and speedy Manjit Singh did the spadework with a searing run to feed Sur Kumar, who dodged past a rival defender and let go a power-packed left-footer that went in off the hands of the Shenzhen goalkeeper.
Mahindra were the better team on view, and repeatedly rattled the Chinese with some good moves as Manjit played a stellar role with his nippy runs.
Shenzheng, comprising mostly junior players, played with enthusiasm, but their inexperience proved their undoing as at times they looked overawed by the occasion.
After a barren opening session, Bagan struck in the 65th minute to get past a strong challenge from the Goa league champions.
Mehtab Hossain initiated the move, sending a long pass into the rival penalty box, where Brazilian Jose Ramirez Barreto made a failed bid to put the ball home. However, Bhowmick showed fine opportunism as he followed the ball well and slotted home, taking advantage of a goalmouth melee.
There were ugly scenes soon after the match as Sporting's Dudu Omagbemi and Mohun Bagan's Eduwardo came to blows and were both shown red cards by referee S Suresh.
The teams had an even share of the exchanges before the breather, though the visitors looked more forceful at times, as Dudu and Earnest Jeremiah combined well.
However, egged on by their supporters, the green and maroon brigade took the field with determination in the second half, and were all over their opponents after Bhowmick's goal.
Bagan, in fact, were unlucky not to leave the ground with a higher margin of victory, as Lalram Puiya's raising snap shot hit the woodwork and ricocheted into play in second half injury time.
Despite the victory, Bagan coach Robson would be worried at the lack of coordination between the crack upfront combination of Barreto and Baichung Bhutia.
Barreto looked off-colour, but Bhutia, despite being heavily marked, worked tirelessly in the latter stages of the match.
Barreto could have got a goal in the second session, but he failed to control the ball following a Bhowmick pass and Methew Gonsalves made the clearance.