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Punjab FC win Reliance Foundation Development League title, beat East Bengal FC in final

Author : IANS

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Mumbai, May 18 (IANS) Harmanpreet Singh struck the winner in the 72nd minute to help Punjab FC prevail over East Bengal FC 3-2 in the final of the National Championship and become the Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) 2023-24 champions at the Reliance Corporate Park here on Saturday.

Punjab FC thus lifted the RFDL trophy to bring a happy end to their unbelievable run in this tournament where they remained unbeaten in the 16 matches that they contested across the Regional Qualifiers, National Group Stage, and the National Championship. They won 14 games and drew only twice in their invincible run in this campaign.

The summit clash was a hotly contested one where the momentum of the game swung both ways in an exciting back-and-forth encounter.

Whilst Punjab FC and East Bengal FC scored once each in the first half, the second essay of the match saw the Red & Gold Brigade net first to get a 2-1 lead before the eventual winners got their act together and scored twice to bag the winner courtesy of substitute striker Harmanpreet Singh in the 72nd minute.

The Sankarlal Chakraborty-coached side opened their account in the 10th minute with in-form forward Omang Dodum showing remarkable composure inside the box to pounce upon a loose delivery and strike it past East Bengal FC goalkeeper Gourab Shaw.

However, East Bengal FC struck back, thanks to midfielder Guite Vanlalpeka, who bagged the equaliser in the 42nd minute with a comfortable shot from the left side of the 18-yard box. East Bengal FC carried that intensity in the second half, getting a lead in the 50th minute, with defender Joseph Justin nodding home a cross and breaking into a jubilant celebration.

However, the tactical acumen of Chakraborty came to their rescue as his timely substitutions ensured that Yendrembam Boby Singh and Harmanpreet, who had come off the bench, scored once each to help them win the championship.

Boby’s goal was sublime, coming as a culmination of the sustained periods of pressure that Punjab FC inflicted upon the East Bengal FC backline.

Boby dribbled the ball at the edge of the box, beating his markers with his deft touch, before unleashing an emphatic shot that rattled the inside of the net and levelled the scores in the 59th minute.

Thirteen minutes later, Harmanpreet laid the final punch by ensuring that his sharp striker instincts took over the proceedings as he slotted the ball into the net after Punjab FC overcrowded the East Bengal FC backline, much to the joy of the Punjab FC players and coaching staff.

“The entire credit of helping Punjab FC win the RFDL 2023-24 season unbeaten goes to our players. The coaching staff played a supportive role, and our players put in a lot of hard work. We prepared extensively to finally win this championship. It was a fiercely contested final. Usually, the result of a very competitive match comes down to the substitution that each team makes, which helped us today. The youth setup and structure of Punjab FC is absolutely world-class and one of the best in Indian football,” Punjab FC coach Sankarlal Chakraborty said after the game.

Season's Awards:

Golden Boot: Omang Dodum (Punjab FC)

Golden Ball: Muhammad Suhail (Punjab FC)

Golden Glove: Sujay S (Roots FC)

--IANS

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