THROWBACK: When East Bengal FC humbled the Nigerian Champions!
Last Updated 4:17 PM 23rd May 2020 .
East Bengal Football Club has always been famous for their triumphs against foreign opponents ever since India became independent and foreign clubs started to tour India. The endeavours against Chinese Olympic XI in 1948 and the Swedish champions IFK Göteborg in 1952 or be the IFA Shield triumphs against PAS Tehran of Iran in 1970 and Pyongyang City FC of North Korea in 1973, East Bengal club had always maintained a reputation to perform against foreign opponents.
Today, we will shade light upon on such great victory from the glorious history of East Bengal FC, when the Red and Gold brigade defeated the Nigerian League and FA Cup Champions Leventis United in the 1986 IFA Shield Semi Finals.
Leventis United was a team from Ibadan that took the Nigerian football by storm in the early and mid 80s. They won the double triumph – Nigerian Elite League and Nigerian FA Cup in 1986, and reached the final of the African Cup Winners Cup final the very season where they lost to Egypt’s Al National. Leventis United also won the Nigerian Football League the very next season in 1987 too, continuing their dominance over the period.
In 1986, IFA invited the Nigerian Champions to participate in the IFA Shield tournament. The tournament had a Semi Final league format where Leventis United was grouped with Abahani Krira Chakra of Bangladesh, and the two Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal FC, two of them to move ahead to the final based on points.
Letventis drew with Mohun Bagan while East Bengal FC defeated Abahani Krira Chakra in their respective first games of the Semi Final league. East Bengal FC had also defeated Mohun Bagan by 2-0 in their second match and Mohun Bagan defeated Abahani Krira Chakra in their last match by a solitary goal which meant both East Bengal FC required just a draw to progress into the final.
However, what unfolded was something unexpected for all the fans present at the Salt Lake Stadium. In the first half, Leventis United exhibited a wonderful brand of football to the spectators with their precision passing, skills and innovation with the ball. The East Bengal FC defence led by Monaranjan Bhattacharya held the African champions at all cost and even after all the pretty football the visitors played, they were allowed only one positive chance in the first half.
The second half was a revelation for East Bengal FC and they were revitalised as was evident from their body language. The team which was shy in the first half, fought neck-to-neck with the physical Africans and started knitting cohesive passes led by midfield duo Sudip Chatterjee and Emeka Ezeugo, who played vital role in all three goals that East Bengal FC scored.
In the buildup to the first goal, Emeka ran down the left wing to cut in to his favourite right foot and delivered a perfect ball for Biswajit Bhattacharya, who slammed home the opener past the Leventis custodian, 1-0. The second came a few minutes later when Emeka received a pass and he went inside the box to shoot from an acute angle, which had deflected from defender John Benson’s legs to find the back of the net, 2-0. The third goal was a collective effort, Biswajit Bhattacharya who scored the first goal put Emeka through ahead with a fine ball. The Nigerian received the ball to run along and put in a fine cross across the defence line for Ranjit Karmakar to slot home from close range against the Nigerian Champions, 3-0.
The scoreline was a surprise to even the East Bengal FC fans present at the stadium. The shell shocked Nigerian Champions scored a goal late which was just a mere consolation and the Nigerian Champions were defeated by the Red and Gold brigade, adding another feather on the cap of great performances against foreign opponents. In the Final, East Bengal FC met arch-rivals Mohun Bagan once again and lifted the trophy after winning it via a penalty shootout, hence making the win against Leventis United a memorable one.