United SC pip East Bengal for maiden IFA Shield triumph

United SC rode on Ranty Martins’ second-half strike to pip defending champions East Bengal and break their 14-match unbeaten run for their maiden IFA Shield title in Kolkata on Wednesday.

The purple brigade also avenged their last year’s loss in the Shield final as Man of the Match Martins’ 80th minute goal denied overwhelming favourites East Bengal a record 25th title.

In the repeat of last year’s final which East Bengal had won on penalties, the giants looked like a shadow of their former self as they missed opportunities while Chidi’s injury proved to be a big blow.

East Bengal had defeated United SC 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out in the last year’s final. This was the young Kolkata team’s second big win after their 2010 Durand Cup triumph.

In pursuit of their record 25th titles, East Bengal were tentative to start with as they played a watchful game in the first 45 minutes.

Playing without their ace forward Edeh Chidi who was benched because of a hamstring pull, East Bengal clearly struggled to get into the act.

The local giants sported a new look forwardline as ‘super sub’ Andrew Barisic, who scored the game-changer equaliser in their semifinal win over rivals Mohun Bagan, figured in the XI to lead the attack along side Baljit Singh.

East Bengal had their first good chance in the 21st minute but midfielder Penn Orji shot it over from a long ranger outside the box.

United also matched equally putting pressure on East Bengal who looked fatigued with hectic scheduling — both at home and abroad.

East Bengal, incidentally, arrived here Thursday after playing the AFC Cup in Vietnam.

East Bengal had a close shave when Asif K’s powerful rightfooter from the edge of the box was brilliantly fisted away by Gurpreet.

The red-and-gold brigade had a brilliant move in the 34th minute when Penn’s centre from left flank found Barisic whose diving header was thwarted by Mukherjee under the bar.

The biggest miss came only a couple of minutes later when a surging Barisic could not get hold of a well-placed centre from Baljit Singh right in front of the goal.

The Aussie collided with United goalkeeper Mukherjee as an alert United defender Bello Rasaq cleared the ball.

The changeover also could not change the fortunes for East Bengal with Gurpreet once again showing a fine outing under the bar.

The tall custodian averted a danger saving a Carlos Hernandez long-ranger as United kept pressure on the record 24 times Shield champions.

With the frenzied red-and-gold fans getting impatient, Trevor Morgan resorted to their trump card Chidi who replaced Orji in the 78th minute hoping that the Nigerian would do a Barisic-act of the semifinal win.

But it was a different day today.

Two minutes later, Martins inflicted the biggest damage with an angular shot from a beautiful right-footer outstep from substitute Malswam Tulunga.

East Bengal tried desperately and had some close calls towards the dying minutes but United SC defence held on with Mukherjee doing a fine job under the bar for an anticlimactic end to the Shield final.

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