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Football

RFDL 2023-24: Punjab FC, East Bengal FC set to lock horns in final

Punjab FC and East Bengal qualified through penalties to set up the title clash, scheduled for May 18.

RFDL 2023-24: Punjab FC, East Bengal FC set to lock horns in final
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East Bengal FC produced a stunning comeback win over Muthoot FA in the RFDL semifinals. (Photo Credit: East Bengal FC)

By

The Bridge Desk

Updated: 15 May 2024 8:20 AM GMT

Punjab FC and East Bengal FC qualified for the final of the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) 2023-24 by defeating Bengaluru FC and Muthoot FA in their respective semifinal fixtures in the National Championship at the Reliance Corporate Park (RCP) in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Bengaluru FC fell short in their pursuit of a third straight RFDL title after losing 2-4 to Punjab FC in the penalty shootout.

The match produced a goalless draw in the regulation time, despite players from both sides, featuring the likes of Amarjit Singh Kiyam (Punjab FC) and Chingambam Shivaldo Singh (Bengaluru FC), leaving no stone unturned to break the deadlock.

Punjab FC finally edged past the Blues in penalties, demonstrating impeccable composure to convert each one of their four attempted spot-kicks to book a berth in the summit clash.

“I am very happy as a coach with the way we played tonight. We maintained nearly 70% possession, explored more passing options, and created greater goal-scoring chances. About Bengaluru FC being the defending champions, what happened in the past doesn’t matter,” Punjab FC coach Sankarlal Chakraborty said after the game.

“Today, the way we prepared for this match, we were successful in getting our desired results. Before the penalty shootouts, I told my team to be focused wherever they wanted to hit the ball. I assured them that if things didn’t go our way, it would be all down to me, and not them," he added.

East Bengal FC edge past Muthoot FA

East Bengal FC produced a fantastic second-half comeback to overturn a 0-2 deficit and draw their last-four fixture against Muthoot FA by 3-3 in regulation time.

Muthoot FA kicked off the proceedings on the front foot, with Muhammed Ashar and Umer Muhthar K P netting in the 14th and 27th minute of the game respectively to get the Kerala-based team in a comfortable position at the half-time break.

However, East Bengal FC coach Bino George shook things up a bit by introducing impactful substitutions in the second half.

This resulted in Shyamlal Besra and PV Vishnu scoring once each in quick succession around the hour mark and Suman Dey netting a stunning strike from the edge of the box in the 76th minute to get a lead at a crucial juncture of the game.

However, Muthoot FA substitute Adil Abdulla reignited his team’s hopes by scoring the equaliser in the added time of the second half. The Red and Gold Brigade, however, beat Muthoot FA by 4-3 in penalties to set up a date with Punjab FC for the title-winning clash.

“Even during the earlier stages of RFDL 2023- 24, we conceded multiple goals early on and still managed to do a comeback. So, we have quality players in our ranks. Suddenly, we conceded twice in the first half. Muthoot FA played very well," East Bengal FC coach Bino George said after the match.

"They pressed us in the first half, but we dominated them thoroughly in the second half, forcing their goalkeeper to make many saves,"

"PV Vishnu has been able to change the game after coming off the bench multiple times. This win reflects our teamwork and team spirit. I thank Reliance for giving us this platform that has resulted in the betterment of our players,” he added.

When is the final?

Punjab FC and East Bengal FC will play in the RFDL final at the RCP on May 18, whereas Muthoot FA and Bengaluru FC will clash in the third-place playoff on May 17.

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