In the realm of high-stakes encounters such as knockout games and cup finals, every team treads on precarious ground. The unforgiving nature of these significant matches leaves little room for error, with the slenderest margins making a profound impact. It is in these moments that the true character, perseverance, and resilience of a team are put to the ultimate test.

Approaching Sunday's Kalinga Super Cup final, East Bengal FC once again found themselves in a familiar scenario within the tournament. In the crucial Group A clash against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant, where victory was imperative for both teams to progress to the semi-final, East Bengal FC initially faced adversity. However, their tenacity and the resolve to fight until the end were vividly on display as they orchestrated a remarkable comeback in the Kolkata Derby.

The Kalinga Super Cup final posed a fresh challenge as Odisha FC led at half-time. The contest against the defending champions, who enjoyed the advantage of playing on home turf and who have been on a long unbeaten run, promised a different kind of struggle. Could East Bengal FC find a path back to redemption?

Memories of the Durand Cup final defeat in August 2023, where they fell short to Mohun Bagan SG by a solitary goal, lingered. It had been 12 years since East Bengal FC had savored national title glory, making their journey to another final this season a significant achievement in itself.

Ultimately, East Bengal FC's unwavering fighting spirit prevailed, leading them to emerge victorious in a captivating five-goal thriller that unfolded with suspense until the final moments.

The game had been a relentless back-and-forth affair, from Odisha FC breaking the deadlock to East Bengal FC taking the lead and even going ahead with a numerical advantage, only to concede an equaliser in injury time — a disheartening twist for Carles Cuadrat's side. The dismissal of Souvik Chowdhury in the first half of extra time nullified East Bengal FC's one-man advantage on the pitch.

The defining moment

Amidst the fierce contest, it was Cleiton Silva who delivered the decisive blow. In games of such magnitude, the smallest errors can prove costly, as was evident with Odisha FC. Silva seized an opportunity, capitalising on Narender Gahlot's attempted pass, securing the ball, and slotting it into the bottom corner. Despite efforts from Ahmed Jahouh and goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte to thwart him, the ball found its way into the far corner.

Silva's celebratory slide towards the corner flag marked a moment of triumph. The East Bengal FC captain was engulfed by teammates and those from the dugout, commemorating a goal that held profound significance with the final whistle imminent. The entire team understood the gravity of that goal after more than 100 minutes of intense football action.

As the final whistle echoed through the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, not only did the hundreds of East Bengal FC fans erupt in celebration, but the players, too, revelled in their triumph. Redemption in their second final of the season was achieved, providing tangible evidence of the success achieved under head coach Carles Cuadrat. Beyond their collective strength as a team, their enduring character, unyielding perseverance, and unwavering resilience were the defining hallmarks of this victorious journey where they finished unbeaten in the tournament.

East Bengal FC reclaimed the title of champions after more than a decade, a term unfamiliar to them in recent years. Once renowned for competing for major titles on the national stage, they had endured years of heartbreak and suffering to reach this pinnacle. The loyal supporters of the club will hope that this victory is merely the beginning of greater achievements for Cuadrat and his team, who have proven that with a robust fighting mentality, anything is possible.