East Bengal's hopes of becoming the first Indian football club to enter the AFC Cup final were dashed after they were beaten 3-0 by a far superior Kuwait Sports Club in the second leg semi-final, in Kolkata, on Tuesday.
Rogerio Coutinho (42nd minute), Hadi Khamees (44th) and Fahad Awaad (87th) accounted for the Kuwait side’s goals.
East Bengal were reduced to ten men for the last 24 minutes as stopper Arnab Mondal was shown red card for pulling back a rival player by holding his jersey.
Two-time defending champions Kuwait Sport Club, thus, made it to yet another continental club championship final with a 7-2 aggregate.
It was a match where the superior skills by the players and greater tactical acumen shown by Kuwait SC's Romanian coach Marin Ion proved decisive.
Needing a minimum 2-0 win to make it to the summit clash, East Bengal looked overawed by the occasion and also did not have the firepower to stretch the vicitors.
The decision of East Bengal's Brazilian coach Marcus Falopa to play with a single striker in South Sudanese James Moga defied logic.
Specialist striker Edeh Chidi, operating from deep, and in-form medio Baljit Singh Sahni being kept on the bench for 51 minutes were some other decisions of Falopa that could come under the scanner.
Kuwait SC soaked in the pressure of playing an away game and then hit on the counter as they closed down the match in the first half. Such was their confidence that they kept their premier striker, Issam Jemma (18 goals in the tournament), on the bench.
Having put up a gutsy show for 40 minutes, East Bengal lost it in the final five minutes before the break as their back-four bungled big time conceding two goals in two minutes as the match ended as a contest at the end of first-half itself.
Brazilian midfielder Rogerio Coutinho scored the first goal, in the 42nd minute. It was as good as one watches in top tier club football across the world. Latching on to a ball in his own half, he started a diagonal sprint as he was given wide space in the middle and defensive third by the home team players.
With Skipper Mehtab Hossain nowhere to be seen, the Brazilian beat stopper Arnab with sheer speed and scored with an immaculate placement past a surging goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal.
The goal did have a psychological impact on the East Bengal players as the Kuwaiti side struck again within a couple of minutes.
This time the East Bengal defenders tried to lay an off-side trap, which forward Hadi Khamees duly beat. Abhijit came out of his charge, and Khamees lobbed the ball over his head before slotting it home. Drama unfolded the very next moment as Khamees kicked East Bengal stopper Uga Okpara and was promptly given marching orders by Australian referee Strebre Delovski.
The third goal saw skipper Fahad make a mockery of Saumik Dey before scoring.
Image: Rogerio De Assis Silva of Kuwait's Al Kuwait
Photograph: Tariq AlAli/Reuters