Emami East Bengal defeated Gokulam Kerala FC by 2-1 at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Stadium in Kolkata to qualify for the semis of Durand Cup 2023 after four years. Jordan Elsey scored for East Bengal in the first minute of the game. But, it was Aminou Bouba's two goals, one for Gokulam Kerala and one own goal made all the difference. With this win, Emami East Bengal FC will face Northeast United FC on 29th August at VBYK.
Emami East Bengal FC started the match on a great note as Jordan Elsey found the net within the first sixty seconds of the match. Mahesh took a short corner and passed it to Borja who lobbed it to Siverio in the middle. Siverio then lobbed the ball to Jordan in the six-yard box who did not fail to head it into the net for the first goal of the match. In the sixth minute of the game, Gokulam nearly equalised via a mistake from East Bengal captain Harmanjot Khabra. Khabra tried to backpass the ball to Prabhsukhan Gill but Alex Sanchez nearly got to the ball before Gill had to slide in to deflect the ball.
Emami East Bengal kept on pressing with Naorem Mahesh changing his side. Borja in the middle played as a link between him and Nadha on the right. Mahesh made a delicious cross from left to right looking for Nadha who could not get a full hold of the ball. Despite East Bengal dominating the game, Gokulam in between tried to sneak into their final third with Alex Sanchez and Nili Perdomo trying to build some rhythm between them. But, Jordan was there to deny anything that came towards the East Bengal goal.
The game got rough post the first twenty minutes of the match as few needless tackles came in from both teams. Gokulam's Basit Bhat received yellow for fouling Siverio and then Souvik Chakraborty and Borja Gonzalez received yellow from the East Bengal team. Although East Bengal defenders gave away needless freekicks, Gill made sure nothing went past him.
In the 32nd minute, East Bengal nearly made it 2-0 with Saul Crespo hitting the bar. Borja took a solid freekick which got to Crespo after getting a deflection from one of the Gokulam defenders. A few minutes later, in the 37th minute, Souvick Chakraborty nearly provided the cross of the match to Javier Siverio Toro whose header narrowly went over the bar. Gokulam did not have that many moments except for the chance from Alex Sanchez. In the 41st minute, Sreekuttan crossed the ball from the right which was badly handled by Chunchunga. The deflected ball went straight to Alex whose on-target shot was saved by Prabhsukhan Gill.
East Bengal created a chance as soon as the second-half whistle was blown. A brilliant lob from Borja Herrea allowed Mahesh to do an "Angel Di Maria", but the Indian winger was not able to do so. Gokulam counter-attacked three minutes later with Nili Perdomo disappointing everyone crossing the ball straight into the hands of Gill. Gokulam started the second half with a different plan to press higher and look for that equaliser with Perdomo, Alex and Komron playing a few passes in between them.
In the 57th minute, Gokulam's long vigil came to an end with Aminou scoring from a header. Abhijith's cross found the head of the defender from Cameroon, Aminou Bouba. Right after the goal, East Bengal made a double change to replace Borja Herrera and Souvick Chakraborty. Edwin Vanspual and Jose Pardo replaced them.
East Bengal looked like a different team in the second half with the whole team looking to defend and playing at backfoot. Whereas, Gokulam Kerala found their mojo and kept on attacking with all force. In the 63rd minute, Domingo Cabrera brought in Noufal to replace a tried Komron. East Bengal brought in Cleiton Silva to replace Javier Siverio in the 68th minute.
After the arrival of Silva, East Bengal looked to reform their attack with Mahesh coming from the flank and Silva trying to score from the middle. In the 75th minute, their best chance came with Mahesh's cross being first deflected by Bouba and then Silva's shot was saved by Tmawia. Just minutes later, East Bengal took the lead to give joy to all their fans. A long-range from Nishu Kumar took the deflection from Aminou Bouba and went straight into the goal to give Emami East Bengal the lead.
Post accruing the lead, East Bengal made sure they gave zero chance to Gokulam Kerala to make a comeback in the match. Cuadrat brought in Suhair and Mandar Rao Desair to keep their fresh legs going for them. In the 90th minute, Vanspual's bullet shot nearly went in but Tamwia made the save to deny the goal. Gokulam tried to fight back in the added minutes, but Prabhsukhan Gill looked like a wall to go past.