NorthEast United FC will aim to create history when they take on East Bengal FC in the first semi-final of Durand Cup 2023. The Highlanders have never reached the final of any major competition and will be aiming to book their place in one for the first time.
Juan Pedro Benali’s side made it through the group stage as one of the two best second-placed teams. They had picked up seven points out of a possible nine and were only edged out of the top spot in Group D due to FC Goa’s superior goal difference. The Guwahati-based side then had to battle through a tense contest against the Indian Army, which they managed to edge 1-0 courtesy of Phalguni Singh’s first goal for the club.
Meanwhile, East Bengal FC too have remained unbeaten in the competition and emerged into the last eight as toppers from Group A. Carles Cuadrat’s side even beat fellow semi-finalists and arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant in one of the most enticing matches of the group stage. The Red and Gold then overcame Gokulam Kerala FC 2-1 in the quarter-final; setting up a much-awaited semi-final contest.
Speaking about the big clash, head coach Benali said, “This semi-final isn't just another match. We're playing in Kolkata against the home team, in front of their fans. And East Bengal are a team with quality players in all positions & on the bench too. We're here to represent our region and fight for our people. Our fans believe in us and we want to make them proud. Together, as one, we'll give it our all and make history.”
The two clubs have faced off six times with NorthEast United winning three of those and East Bengal winning the most recent meeting in the Hero Indian Super League. This is the first time the two sides will face each other in the Durand Cup.