The opening day of the tournament saw a shower of goals in both the fixtures.

The 72nd Santosh Trophy 2018 started with record champions West Bengal taking on Manipur at the Howrah Stadium on Monday afternoon. West Bengal had the majority of the possession from the kickoff which helped them create a flurry of chances in the first half. Tirthankar Sarkar was the midfield linchpin who controlled the gameplay in the midfield. Young winger Bidyasagar Singh linked up well with Sarkar as Manipur conceded minutes after the game began.

In the 7th minute, Bengal won a corner and Sarkar stepped up to take the set-piece. His brilliant delivery found Jiten Murmu inside the box. The Mohammedan striker’s shot struck the goal post and midfielder Sumit Das scored from the rebound. Bengal were rewarded for their early pressure and took the lead.

Manipur were hardly allowed possession in the first half as the team from the Northeast never troubled Bengal custodian Ranajit Mukherjee. Bengal again dictated play as Tirthankar found Bidyasagar on the right flank with a stunning through ball. The young winger was also up to the task as his cross found Sumit Das inside the opposition box, who scored his second goal with a calm left-footed finish.

West Bengal put up a convincing display against Manipur

Even though the scoreline read 2-0, Bengal kept on haunting the Manipuri defence as Tirthankar’s long ball found right-back Ankit Mukherjee and the defender headed the ball home, but unfortunately was caught offside. Manipur finally had a chance when they had a free-kick in a dangerous area near the Bengal penalty box sometime later. But, midfielder Jerry Pulamte stepped up and struck the bar in agony.

The second half was a lot gloomier than the first. Although Manipur enjoyed more possession than the first 45, the match was still under control for West Bengal coach Ranjan Chowdhury and his boys.

Manipur finally had a clear chance to score when Jerry Pulamte’s shot was parried by the Bengal goalkeeper but the danger kept looming until Bengal defenders cleared the ball. Both teams had half chances as the second half failed to produce goals compared to the first.

The champions still enjoyed higher amount of possession as substitute Sujay Dutta’s shot was cleared off the goal-line by a Manipuri defender. Sarkar pounced on the loose ball and passed it on the left flank, where winger Bidyasagar Singh was completely unmarked. The young winger’ thunderous shot went past the goalkeeper into the top corner.

West Bengal dominated the game from the beginning till the end. Manipur had a couple of half chances but none of them could shake West Bengal’s sturdy defence.

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In the other game of the day, five times champions Kerala rout Chandigarh 5-1 in their opening Group A game of the Santosh Trophy 2018 at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on Monday.

Jithin M.S scored two goals in the 11th and 51st minute and provided two assists to guide his team to glory. The other three goals for Kerala were scored in the 18th, 49th and 77th minute respectively by Sajith Poulose, Afdal V.K and Sreekuttan V.S. Vishal Sharma was the lone scorer for Chandigarh in the 88th minute.

It was an end to end affair at the beginning with both teams starting in a 4-4-2 formation. As the game progressed Kerala slowly took control of the game and started dominating proceedings.

The South Indian outfit broke the deadlock in the 11th minute of the match when Seesan S forwarded a through ball for right winger Jithin M.S. The U-21 player received the ball at the edge of the box and found the back of the net comfortably. Kerala doubled their lead in 18th minute. Sajith Poulose finding the back of the net from Jithin’s low cross from the right flank.

Chandigarh fell prey to Kerala’s attacking prowess on Monday afternoon

Chandigarh’s morale was completely down after conceding the second goal while Kerala, on the other hand, increased the pace of the game and were looking hungry for goals. Kerala utilised their wings brilliantly with Jithin M.S leading the side’s attack force. They exploited the vulnerability in Chandigarh defence and opened goal mouth on several occasion in the first half.

The teams went into the break with the scoreboard flashing 2-0 in favour of Kerala.

Kerala started the second half with the same intensity with which they played in the first 45 minutes of the match. Their positive approach yielded them their third goal of the game in the 49th minute. Striker Afdal VK netted his team’s third goal from Jithin’s assist.

Kerala maintained the pressure and piled on Chandigarh’s misery as they increased their tally to four goals with Jithin M.S’ scoring the second goal of the match.

Coach Satheevan Nil Balan made two changes in the 65th minute. Sreekuttan VS replaced Jithin M.S in the flanks and striker Anurag P.C replaced Afdal V.K. Chandigarh too made a change. Coach Sandeep Singh brought defender Gagan Kalyan in place of Deepak Kumar.

Kerala hammered the final nail in Chandigarh’s coffin in the 77th minute when substitute Sreekuttan V.S scored. His shot hit the far post and went in. Chandigarh pulled one back in the 88th minute thanks to a strike from Vishal Sharma. The striker scored the consolation goal to restore some pride in this one-sided clash.

Chandigarh next meet Manipur on 21st match and Kerala face the same opponent on March 23rd.