The 120th edition of the IFA Shield saw its first finalist decided, as the venerable All India Football Federation's (AIFF) Elite Academy overcame the Eaglets of the Premier League side Crystal Palace in a thrilling 6-5 win on penalties. This was after regulation time and extra-time saw the teams finish level at 2-2. The game was played at the Mohun Bagan ground, on Wednesday, 2nd March.
Coming into this semi-final, the AIFF Academy had topped group B with four consecutive wins, whilst Palace's U-19 squad finished second in group A.
In a franctic first 45, Prosenjit Chakraborthy came close to opening the scoring the opener for the home team twice. He was denied by a brilliant save from the Palace custodian Colm for the first time, wtih a left-footed chip in the 21st minute, before rattling the cross bar after collecting Nijwm Muchahary’s superb cross.
Emmanuel Ormore, performed an act of cardinal sin, handling the ball in the box and subsequently gave the referee no other option than to award the AIFF colts with a penalty kick. Bodo pummelled his kick past the hapless Crystal Palace custodian to hand the Indian side a deserved lead.
Bodo nearly added to his and the AIFF Academy side's tally with a neat shot, but unfortunately for the hosts, the chance came off the post. Chakraborthy, however, did double the Academy's lead with a swiftly taken volley, from just outside the box which the keeper couldn't hang on to, on the cusp of half-time to put the colts in a commanding position with a 2-0 lead.
Palace reurend with vengeance and renewed wager in the second half and got their due reward in the 52nd minute as they reduced the deficit to just a single goal. Abhishek Halder, a key player for the Colts in midfield, then had to go off with injury as Anirudh Thapa's 71st minute effort narrowly missed the target from afar.
The match came back to level pegging in the 80th minute as Palace equalized setting up a thrilling ten minutes of regulation time. However neither team manged to find the back of the net again, as the game went into Extra-time.
The AIFF team showed aggression in the first half of extra-time as Prosenjit 's lovely through ball was met by Bodo. The striker though sent the ball agonizingly wide of the far post.
Chakraborthy himself hit the side netting in the second half of extra-time as both teams finished on level terms after 120 minutes of action.
Anirudh Thapa, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Prosenjit, Bodo, Bhutia and Surya all converted for the Colts whilst Edmund Lalrindika's penalty saw Colm save it. Meanwhile, Prabhsukhan Singh made two splendid saves to ensure the home side swept into the final, 6-5 on penalties, to the expense of the British side.
They will await their opponents, from the encounter between The Tata Football Academy (TFA) and Malaysian side Frenz United in the second semi-final, which will be played at 4.30 PM IST, on Thursday, 3rd March.