East Bengal, Salgaocar face off in Fed Cup final

Kolkata: Twice lucky on their road to the third successive Federation Cup football final, two-time defending champions East Bengal will take on I-League winners Salgaocar in the title clash of the 33rd edition of the tournament, on Thursday.

The much-awaited encounter between the two sides – both have already qualified for the AFC Cup on the the basis of their performance in the I-League and the ongoing tournament respectively -- will be a repeat of the summit clash in 1997 when the Goans prevailed 2-1.

Cut to this edition, East Bengal did not look convincing in their wins, with dubious refereeing in their match against Dempo and Prayag United SC playing a role in their passage to the final.

The reigning I-League champions, on the other hand, have been clinical in their approach and are yet to concede a goal after four matches (three in quarterfinal group league and one in semifinal).

More than winning the title, the final will give East Bengal coach James Morgan an opportunity to set the record straight against a side, which pipped his boys for the I-League crown last season.

However, it will not be easy for the Englishman as he will have to make do with a half-fit Mehtab Hussain, the playmaker who gives thrust to East Bengal`s attack.

Hussain, who has been chosen the `Best Player` of the country recently, is grappling with a groin injury that ruled him out of the semifinal, along with defender Raju Gaikwad.

Known for his bold decisions, it will be interesting to see Morgan`s ploy in case Hussain and Gaikwad fail the fitness test before kick-off.

In their last match, Morgan was not afraid to bench the seasoned Orji Penn in place of new recruit Alan Gow. It`s a move that did not pay immediate result but Morgan persisted with the duo as United SC faltered before conceding two red cards.

PTI

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