NorthEast United FC’s Durand Cup 2023 campaign ended in the semi-final after losing to East Bengal FC on penalties at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Michel Zabaco and Phalguni Singh scored on either side of the break to give the Highlanders a commanding lead but the home side fought back to level the score to take the game to penalties, where they won 5-3.
Juan Pedro Benali made four changes to his side with Parthib Gogoi back in the starting XI as well as Mohammed Ali Bemammer getting his first start for the club. The start of the contest was a cagey affair with both sides looking to get a foothold in the match. However, the visitors had slightly greater possession. And the deadlock was broken in the 22nd minute with Zabaco deftly heading home Phalguni’s brilliant cross; his first for the club.
Chances followed for East Bengal FC but Mirshad Kottappunna and the entire NorthEast backline were up to the task to deny the Red and Gold Army in the opening half. Soon after the restart, the lead doubled as Phalguni danced his way into the box and fired home a left-footed strike in off the upright to score his second of the competition.
But Carles Cuadrat’s side weren’t out of the contest yet and pulled one back in the 77th minute with Mahesh Singh Naorem’s shot deflecting in off Dinesh Singh. The home side pressed for the equaliser and managed to get it through Nandhakumar Sekar in the seventh minute of injury time. In the shootout, Parthib failed to convert his spot kick while East Bengal scored all theirs to send them through to the final.