The traditional rivalry between Bengal and Goa takes the centre stage as two teams from each state (East Bengal and United Sports Club from Bengal; Salgaocar FC and AIFF Elite Academy from Goa) have made into the semi-finals of the ongoing U-18 I-League in Kolkata.
United Sports Club will take on defending champions AIFF Elite Academy in the first semi-final while the second semi-final will see East Bengal locking their horns with Salgaocar FC. Both the semi-finals will be played at the Barasat Stadium on May 5, 2017.
AIFF Elite Academy: The defending champions, who set the benchmark for Indian football academies, going through a phase of transition with many of their big guns leaving the academy over past 12 months. However, that doesn’t come into play as Floyd Pinto’s men clinched the Goa Zone to qualify for the final round.
Elite Academy started their campaign in the final round with a resounding 4-1 victory over Minerva Punjab FC before beating DSK Shivajians 2-1. Though they lost their last group game against Bengaluru FC but their coach Floyd Pinto doesn’t think that it will effect team’s morale going into the semi-finals and fancy their chances of winning the title thrice in a row.
East Bengal Club: The Red and Golds’ seniors failed to win the I-League this season despite leading the standings for the most part of the season and the colts will look to make amends when they take the field in U-18 I-League semi-finals.
Led by Ranjan Chowdhury, who is regarded as one of the best youth coaches in the country, the Red and Golds are in their first U-18 I-League semi-finals having beaten formidable opponents like FC Pune City and Tata Football Academy they look like a transformed side.
Salgaocar FC: Making their second successive semi-final appearance, Salgaocar FC started off with a narrow 3-2 win over Royal Wahingdoh before suffering a 3-5 defeat to United Sports Club.
However, The Greens bounced back in style and some really attacking football against Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools saw them finish the group phase as best runners-up with 6 points from 3 games and a handsome +5 goal difference. The Levino Anthony Perreira-coached side have really gone from strength to strength and have emerged one of the favourites to go all the way in the competition.
United Sports Club: The Purple Brigade got an eleventh-hour entry to the tournament owing to Mohun Bagan’s disqualification. The Surojit Das coached side made full use of that chance and made into the semi-finals by winning all their group games comfortably against Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, Salgaocar FC and Royal Wahingdoh.
They have been the highest scoring side so far in the competition and if they maintain their form, they’re the team to beat.