Custodian Abhra Mandal saved three successive penalty shots to help East Bengal clinch Federation Cup football title by overcoming giant-killer Lajong FC of Shillong in a keenly contested summit clash in Guwahati on Sunday.
Yusif Yakubu, Nirmal Chhetri and Sanju Pradhan scored for the Kolkata outfit in the penalty shootout after stipulated 90 minutes as well as the extra-time failed to determine the champion of the prestigious tournament at a packed Nehru Stadium.
Mandal successfully thwarted the penalty attempts by Anil Gurung, Samson Ramengmawia and Kyrshan Lyngshing, following which Pradhan scored East Bengal's third goal to seal the win.
Lajong, who had shocked I-League champions Churchill Brothers 1-0 to book their maiden final berth earlier, rode on the crowd support to thwart the Kolkata giant in regulation time as Yakubu, Mehtab Hussain and Nabi missed chances galore.
Earlier, the match saw a well-contested but barren first half with Lajong defenders standing firm to save their citadel despite some nippy attacks by East Bengal.
In the 35th minute Yakubu came tentalisingly close to give East Bengal the lead but his stinging left footer was fisted off by the Lajong custodian Boithang.
Although the Shillong team had a couple of shots at the rival goal, those could not find back of the net due to poor finishing and lack of understanding. Lajong striker Gurung missed a close chance in the 51st minute.
In the 66th minute Mehtab Hussain's left footer almost found the target but an alert Lajong goalkeeper did his job rightly under the bars.
Although, East Bengal looked a better side in the second half, the Baichung Bhutia-led team could not pierce through Lajong defence despite several attempts.
East Bengal charted a quick attack to the end of second half, but a visibly tired Yakubu could not found the back of the net as his wobbly shot failed to get past the Lajong custodian.
The Lajong men continued with their no-hold-barred effort in the extra time also and fought neck to neck to keep the ball in their possession, much to the cheer of huge crowd present at the Nehru Stadium.
"They played really well but ultimately we prevailed when it mattered the most," Bhutia said after the match.