The match witnessed a red card each for both the teams…

West Bengal continued their good form as they registered a narrow 1-0 win over defending champions Services in the 71st Santosh Trophy match played at GMC Stadium Bambolim earlier today.

West Bengal are unbeaten in the last three matches. They had defeated Chandigarh in the last match. While Services had also won all three South Zone qualifying matches scoring 13 and conceding only one goal.

Services coach Priya Darshan made two changes to his side as midfielder Francis Zountlunga and keeper Vishnu VK were named in the starting XI. He also introduced four new faces, Ashok Kumar, Farhad VV, Kalesh MV and Suresh Metei on the bench. Bengal coach Mridul Banerjee made only one change to his side which earned full three points against Chandigarh as Samad Mallick made way for Ankit Mukherjee. While, the last match scorer SK. Faiaz started from the bench for Bengal.

Bengal were the most influential team in the first half as they produced many attacks. They took just two minutes to create their first chance of the match when Shaikhom Singh sent a long ball in the box to Moirangthem Singh but Services keeper Vishnu was quick enough to collect it on time. A minute later, keeper Vishnu was in the action again when he collected a shot from Manvir Singh.

At the other end, Services were unlucky not to go into an early lead as Arjun Tudu’s powerful shot from inside the box just missed the target.  Bengal were in action again when Mumtaz Akhtar found Manvir with a perfect through pass, who cut past two defenders in the box but failed to deliver from his last touch.

Services also came into action with two back-to-back attacks but Bengal keeper Sankar Roy kept any danger away from his side. First, his diving effort denied Anoop Pauly’s blistering shot from the edge of the box. Later, he surged ahead to intercept Francis’ cross from the left.

Bengal came close to scoring in the 18th minute when Manvir sent a brilliant pass to Shaikhom in the box but the midfielder shot wide from close instead of just directing the ball.

Finally, Bengal broke the deadlock in the 21st minute through Moirangthem. The midfielder got hold of the loose ball in the box and brilliantly curled the ball into the far post. They had one more chance to double their lead but Manvir’s chipped shot from close range brushed the crossbar and went out for a goal-kick. A minute before this, Bengal keeper Roy made a diving effort to save RK Jelison’s goal-bound shot.

It was all Services in the second half as they marched several times on the opponents but every time failed in the final third. Bengal keeper Roy was the hero for his side as he was brilliant between the sticks and denied the opponents on many occasions. However, Services were unlucky not to score the equaliser in the 81st minute as Jain P’s sparkling shot from 30 yards rebounded off the goalpost with keeper Roy beaten. Bengal also were denied by the goalpost when substitute Bishal Pradhan’s long ranger hit the crossbar and came back at his own feet but this time he failed to direct his shot and the ball went out for a goal-kick.

Services were reduced to ten men with more than 20 minutes to on the clock when Tudu was shown his second yellow and given his marching orders by referee Tejas Nagvekar for a harsh tackle on a Bengal defender. However, Bengal were also shortened to 10 men a minute before the full-time whistle. Monotosh Chakldar was shown his second yellow for a studs up tackle on Jain.

Bengal Coach Banerjee was in party mood after the full-time whistle and he said, “It was really a tough match but we scored in the first half and held the lead till the end. It is time to celebrate. My players really played well and encouraging football.”

In the day’s other match played at Tilak Maidan Vasco, Sehijpal Singh scored the winner in the 90th minute for Chandigarh as they scripted a comeback win over Meghalaya. After a goalless first half, Kitboklang Pale opened the tally for the Northeastern state six minutes after the resumption of play, while Gagandeep Singh scored the equaliser in the 64th minute for Chandigarh. 

With two wins out of two, Bengal sit at the top of Group A with six points, while it was the first match for Services. Chandigarh stand in third place with three points from two outings, while Meghalaya are at the bottom of the table after losing both the matches played.