Ralte’s injury-time penalty takes East Bengal to the semi-finals
East Bengal clinched a dramatic 1-0 victory over Aizawl FC in the first quarter-final of the Hero Super Cup at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. The Kolkata giants had to rely on a late penalty from Laldanmawia Ralte to overcome their Hero I-League counterpart, in what proved to be a riveting end-to-end encounter.
East Bengal started off as the better of the two sides with forward Omegbemi Dudu proving to be a constant threat for the Aizawl backline. The Nigerian got his first chance inside the first 10 minutes when Mahmoud Al Amna put him through on goal, but he was caught in an offside position. In the 12th minute, East Bengal appealed for a penalty when Al Amna was seemed to have been tripped by Alfred Jaryan inside the box, but the referee didn’t agree.
However, their best chance came in the 28th minute when Lalram Chullova delivered a glorious cross across the face of the six-yard box, but a sliding Dudu failed to reach it on time. Aizawl created their first real chance in the 40th minute, but Andrei Ionescu’s stinging shot from the edge of the box hit the side-netting. Thereafter, Katsumi Yusa had a chance to score from a free-kick but Aizawl custodian Lalawmpuia’s save ensured that the first-half ended goalless.
East Bengal could have broken the deadlock in the very first minute after the restart when Dudu found himself through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but the Nigerian ended up squandering the chance. Aizawl tried to impose themselves in the second half, but East Bengal’s robust defence meant that they had to settle for shots from distance.
With the heat and humidity getting to the players, the game seemed to be heading into extra-time. But with the match entering five minutes of injury-time, drama was yet to be unfolded. East Bengal were awarded a penalty when substitute Ansumana Kromah was brought down by Lalawmpuia inside the box. Ralte stepped up to take the penalty and calmly converted it to take his team to the semifinals, breaking Aizawl’s hearts in the process.