Edeh Chidi helps Salgaocar pip beat Lajong FC
Kolkata: Reigning I-League champions Salgaocar rode on a late strike by Edeh Chidi to pip Shillong Lajong FC 1-0 and advance to the final of the 33rd Federation Cup at the floodlit Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Sunday.
Chidi scored the goal in the last minute of the regulation time to take the three-time winners into the final after a gap of 14 years.
The Goans, who won the Federation Cup last time in 1997, will take on the winners of tomorrow`s match between East Bengal and Prayag United SC in the final, on September 29.
It was a dull first-half as both teams showed no signs of urgency but in the second period the match gained momentum as there were a couple of sparks of brilliance from Shillong
But full credit to Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit Singh, who thwarted two fine chances to keep the hopes of the Goans alive.
Salgaocar had the better of ball possession but Chidi and Sueoka were eluded of their usual flair, missing as many as three clear chances between them.
When it all seemed that the match was going for a stalemate, the former Mohun Bagan forward Chidi earned Salgaocar the winner to their seventh final appearance.
In fact, it was Karim Bencherifa`s strategic move of brining Elijah Junior in place of Sueoka that yielded the results.
Junior, who replaced an off-colour Sueoka in the 87th minute, immediately made his presence felt as his long lob found a surging Chidi.
Lajong goalkeepr Lalthuammawia Ralte missed the flight and failed to grab the ball before falling down, while Chidi made good use of the opportunity to slot it home without any fuss.
Salgaocar had their first chance in the 12th minute when Sueoka shot over the post. There were more tricky issues with the Goans when their defender Luciano Sabrosa almost scored an own goal in the 24th minute but his header hit the post, in the two high points of a drab first 45 minutes.
The Shillong outfit, which made the semis from a strong group boasting Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers, had their first chance in the 59th minute.
But Johny Menyongar`s powerful right-footer on top of the box was saved by the Salgaocar custodian.
Salgaocar then had their poor run of mispasses with Sueoka failing to use Chidi`s supply.
Sueoka`s best chance came in the 83rd minute when from a Chidi centre he missed a one-on-one situation.
In two back-to-back counter attacks, Lajong almost had the lead but Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit stood tall under the bar.
Johny had a fine chance in the 85th minute while three minutes later a powerful left-footeer by Boithang was brilliantly saved by Karanjit.
But the Goans lost the momentum in the last minute, just before the injury time.