Bengal top Group A with seven points…

Goa and their arch rivals West Bengal played out a dull goalless draw in the 71st Santosh Trophy match played at GMC Stadium Bambolim earlier today.

The hosts has defeated Daman & Diu and Madhya Pradesh in the West Zone Qualifiers scoring 12 goals without conceding any. They had recently edged out Meghalaya 2-1 in their first match of the tournament. While West Bengal were flying high with back-to-back wins in the last two matches against Chandigarh and defending champions Services.

Goa’s gaffer Mateus Costa chose to go with the same starting XI which earned full points against Meghalaya. While Bengal coach Mridul Banerjee was forced to change his midfielder Monotosh Chakladar as he was serving a suspension due to the red card in the last match against Services. SK Faiaz replaced him in the starting XI.

The match started with possession football from Bengal. However as the match progressed, it was restricted to midfield play. Both the sides showed too much respect to each other as there was no serious chance created from both the ends till the half hour mark. In between this, Goa’s keeper Agnelo Gomes had gifted an open chance to Bengal to go into an early lead when he missed collecting an easy ball in the box. The ball fell to Moirangthem Singh. The striker saw Manvir Singh in a better position to score and passed it to him but Manvir’s low shot was wide with keeper Gomes out of position.

At the half hour mark, the match witnessed a change in strategy from Bengal as they became slightly more attacking. Bengal’s Mumtaz Akhtar came up with two back-to-back shots from distance. However, his first shot was far away from the target but the second shot was close enough to see acrobatic movement from the Goa keeper Gomes.

At the other end,  Goa’s Leander D’Cunha saw his shot just miss the target. However there was a quick reply from the opponents when Moirangthem took an excellent run on the right wing and passed it to Manvir, but defender Peter Carvalho blocked his powerful shot in the box.

Unlike the first half, the second half started with lots of attacking football from both the ends. Goa had a good chance in the 3rd minute of the second session when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the box but Liston Colaco’s weak shot was easily collected by the keeper Sankar Roy.

The second quarter of the session witnessed four back-to-back attacks from Bengal but failed to capitalise every time. First, Manvir covered some ground after getting hold of the loose ball in the opposition’s half but failed to put power in his shot from close and the ball went into the waiting hands of keeper Gomes. Manvir was in the action again when he made an excellent run from the halfway line, dribbling past two defenders entering the box but his shot from close was brilliantly blocked by defender Melvin Lobo at the cost of a corner. 

Next, Debasis Pradhan showed his skill from his own half to cut past few defenders on the way and shot on the goal but keeper Gomes dived to his left to push his effort for a corner. Later Shaikhom sent a curling cross in the box to Manvir, but the midfielder’s sliced header was far away from the target.

The last chance of the match came Goa’s way when the referee again awarded a free-kick in the danger zone. Liston stepped up and nicely curled the ball to the far post but Bengal keeper made an acrobatic effort to keep his side safe from any danger.     

Goa coach Costa was happy with the point as he said, “Bengal had won two matches out of two. They were high on confidence and a point from this match is good. Now we are looking forward to our remaining matches.”

In the other match played at Tilak Maidan Vasco, Services edged out Chandigarh 1-0. The only goal of the match was scored by Francis Zountlunga from the spot-kick in the 8th minute.

With this win, Bengal top Group A with seven points from three matches, while Goa remain second with four points from two matches. Services have opened their points tally and stand at third with three points from two outings.