Santosh Trophy: Bengal stays in hunt with narrow win

Bengal beat Punjab to stay in contention to qualify for the next stage of the Santosh Trophy while Goa won its second consecutive game by defeating Assam.

Narohari Shestha engaged in midfield duel with Punjab's Vishal (4) and Sabarjit Singh (5).   -  S. Sudarshan

Bengal survived a late fight back from 10-man Punjab to stay alive in the 70th Santosh Trophy National football championship at the SEC Railway stadium here on Thursday.

Narohari Sheshta scored the match-winner in the 11th minute to fetch full points for 31-time champion which had lost the opening match against Goa.

Goa recorded its second straight win in pool ‘B’ as it scored a 1-0 win over Assam at the University stadium.

Former international and coach of Bengal Alok Mukherjee made three changes and his side showed positive intent from the start. A rasping 35-yard left-footer from Deepak, which was tipped over the bar by Punjab goalkeeper Kamalpreet Singh, set the ball rolling for Bengal.

The former champion snatched the lead in the 11th minute when the young Narohari Sheshta blasted a left-footer from the top of the box after the ball was rolled to him by Jiten Murmu from middle.

Punjab regrouped and used both flanks to move the ball up towards the Bengal box but the raids fizzled out as strikers Ajay Singh and Tarunjit Singh weren’t allowed any space by the Bengal defence. Bengal counter-attacked and created chances which could have been converted had Narohari and Jagannath Saha been a little quicker inside the rival box.

Narohari was a shade slow to reach a Mrumu cross from the right flank and Jagannath Saha delayed his shot and allowed goalkeeper to save it.

Punjab came out with all guns blazing in the second half. Sarabjit Singh had a clear look at the Bengal goal in the 50th minute but his header was wayward.

Punjab was reduced to 10 men in the 55th minute when Prabhjot Singh was sent off for his second bookable offence of the match and the fizz went out of attack.

Bengal had Punjab retreating deep into their half with quick build-ups from middle. However, Imran Khan and Dipendu Dowary failed to cash in on the chances that came their way as Punjab survived.

Atinder nearly scored the equaliser against the run of play for Punjab but his header missed the mark narrowly in the 75th minute. Punjab launched an all out attack in the final 10 minutes and Bengal goalkeeper Priyant Kumar Singh who was later declared as the man-of-the-match had to be at his best to thwart the rival strikers. Priyant’s best save came just before the final whistle when he palmed away a full blooded shot from Sarbjit Singh.

On Friday, Maharashtra will take on Mizoram while Railways will play Services.

Results

Bengal 1 (Narohari Shestha 11) bt Punjab 0.

Goa 1 (Rowilson Rodrigues 13) bt Assam 0.