Nigerian recruit Henry Ezeh’s tap-in the 53rd minute enabled ONGC to beat Indian Navy 1-0 in the second semifinal of the Durand Cup. With this win ONGC booked a meeting against Mohammedan Sporting Club in Thursday’s final,a floodlit tie at Ambedkar Stadium. For Mohammedan,it will be their first Durand final since 1992. They came close in 2002,when they were knocked out in the semis.
Unlike the first semifinal where Mohammedan got the better of Mumbai Tigers by three goals to one,the scoreline in the second semifinal didn’t tell the full story of ONGC’s dominance. ONGC may have confirmed their final berth with a solitary goal but on several occasions they came very close to extending their lead.
It was Navy,though,who first succeeded in breaching the ONGC defence in the 31st minute,with midfielder Anoop Pauley’s header cleared off the line by defender Karan Atwal.
Having made repeated incursions into the opposition’s box,ONGC finally got a scoring opportunity in the 43rd minute. Left winger Lavino Fernandes went on a solo run and,after reaching the top of the box,sent an aerial cross to Jatin Bisht. Bisht gauged the trajectory of the dipping ball well,but saw his header deflect off the post.
ONGC looked a rejuvenated side once they took the field after the breather. Then came the 53rd minute and ONGC’s efforts were rewarded through Ezeh. Once again,Fernandes charged down the left flank and crossed into the center,where Ezeh had made a run through the Indian Navy defence. Both Ezeh and the defenders misjudged the height and failed to connect with their heads but in the goalmouth melee that followed,Ezeh tapped home to give ONGC the lead.
Ezeh almost doubled the lead in the 69th minute,only to be denied by alert defending from PS Sumesh on the goal line. After receiving a through ball,Ezeh ran past the midfield to enter the Navy box alone. He beat the defenders,feinted past the goalie and found himself in front of goal. But Sumesh staved off the danger to clear his shot.
As the match reached its climax,ONGC got another opportunity in the 86th minute. On a counter,right winger Sachin Gawas received a through ball and shot from long range only for the ball to hit the woodwork.