Amidst a huge crowd gathered at the Ambedkar Stadium during the final of the Durand Cup between Mohammedan Sporting and ONGC on Thursday,kids in school uniforms occupied an entire stand. Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey starred as the hero with a goal and an assist.
As the referee blew the whistle to start play,Mohammedan Sporting Club,who felt at home in Delhi despite belonging to Kolkata,received a loud cheer.
The match reached the 35th minute with the crowd waiting patiently to see their side score against ONGC. One of the kids rose from his seat and said,35 minutes ho gaye aur koi goal nai hua. (It has been 35 minutes and still,there has been no goal). It was as if the kid had echoed the sentiments of the entire crowd.
A minute after he had settled into his seat,Mohammedan striker Tolgay Ozbey produced an agile run down the left flank and assisted in their first goal. Ozbey,although half-fit,looked in supreme touch as he doubled the lead in the 45th minute to play his part in creating history.
On Thursday,Mohammedan Sporting beat ONGC 2-1 to win the Durand Cup after a gap of 73 years their first since 1940,when they had defeated Warwickshire Regiment. The Durand Cup is also their first major domestic title since 1987. They could have won it in 1992 itself,had they not lost to JCT in the final. A decade later,they exited in the semifinals of the coveted Cup.
As expected,the final proved to be lively. ONGC may have fallen short by a solitary goal but the intensity kept the crowd on their feet. Having come so close to return to the big stage,Mohammedan looked in no mood to let the opportunity slip from their hands. They were in business from the start and just four minutes into the final,right winger Collin Abranches sent a measured cross on the run to Israil Gurung,whose weak header took the fizz out of a flowing move.
Gurung sprinted down the left in the 13th minute and to cut inside. His aerial cross went abegging as midfielder Ajay Singh couldn’t judge the dipping trajectory of the ball and missed a tap in. ONGC produced its first attack on the counter,with striker Henry Ezeh bulldozing the Mohammedan defence with a solo effort. He stormed into the box and sent a left foot screamer goalwards,which was parried by the Mohammedan goalie.
Mohammedan had multiplied their attacks by then and very often,the crowd went berserk but to no avail. Then came the 36th minute in which Tolgay Ozbay,who had switched positions from the centre to the left,received the ball at the byline and made a run to enter the top of the box. He crossed for Antony Soren to tap it in during a goal mouth melee. The black and white Mohammedan flags flew high.
Nine minutes later,before the fourth official displayed a solitary minute for extra time,Ozbey’s deft touch and dribbling saw him beat a couple of ONGC defenders to enter the box. He made space to his right and hit a swerving shot into the top right corner to double the lead.
After the breather,ONGC’s opportunity came when the referee awarded them a free kick. Asim Hassan drove a low volley directly towards the Mohammedan goal and Lavino Fernandes headed home to pull one back when goalie Sukhwinder failed to collect it cleanly..
ONGC had numerous opportunities but a selfish approach from their striker Ezeh saw them squander many chances. In the second half,Ezeh collected the the ball and despite knowing that Fernandes stood unmarked on the other side,wasted a scoring opportunity.
Mohammedan kept pressing hard,thanks to their wall-like defence,which didn’t let any ONGC attack materialise. In the dying minutes,ONGC got a corner which proved to be totally innocuous but Mohammedan defender Luciano Soarosa broke his elbow in an attempt to push the danger away. He is expected to be out for at least one month.
We are back in the league now. This tournament has shown how fit the team is and we are ready to take on the I-League. We are very happy and looking forward to do well, said an excited Tolgay Ozbey.