Santosh Trophy: Faiz saves the blushes for West Bengal

Ekes out 1-0 win in the opening match of the tournament.

West Bengal scored the winning goal against the run of play.   -  S. Ramesh Kurup (File Photo)

Substitute S. K. Faiz snatched a last-minute winner for West Bengal to end a spirited challenge from Chandigarh in a Group A match of the 71st Santosh Trophy football championship at the Rosary Sports Complex stadium here on Sunday.

Faiz latched on to a perfect pass from another substitute Sannik Murmu and outpaced two defenders to place the ball into the far post to earn full points for the 31-time champion West Bengal. It was heartbreak for Chandigarh, which had qualified for the national championship for the first time after 19 years, as it was the better side in the second half and had dominated its rival. With a hard, physical game, Chandigarh was able to upset the rhythm of its rival and it enjoyed more of the ball possession in the second half.

However, despite its dominance, it couldn’t create many goal-scoring opportunities. The winning goal came against the run of play and after Chandigarh had pressed hard for the elusive goal in the dying minutes. Murmu intercepted a ball in the midfield and quickly sent a through pass to Faiz, who had come on as substitute in the 67th minute, and the striker duly responded with a clinical finish.

The first half contrasted with the second as Chandigarh struggled to settle down and it was Bengal which looked threatening. The former champion created at least three good chances but wasted them. The best chance for Bengal came in the 31st minute when Shaikom Singh’s cross found Manvir in a good position to score but the striker’s header was wayward.

‘Tough match’

West Bengal coach Mridul Kanth Banerjee was relieved to win the match. “In any tournament, the first match is important. It was a tough match for us and full credit to the boys for winning it. Chandigarh was physically stronger than us and they dominated in the second half. But things would have been easier for us if we had converted our chances in the first half,” said Mridul. Chandigarh coach Mukesh Sharma was disappointed but was proud of the way his boys performed.

Host Goa started its campaign with a 2-1 win over Meghalaya at GMC stadium in Dambolim. After a goalless first half, the action picked up in the second half with all the goals coming fairly early - in the first 10 minutes. Latesh Mandrekar opened the scoring for Goa in the 49th minute before Liston Colaco doubled the lead in the 52nd minute. Enestar Malngiang reduced the margin for Meghalaya in the 54th minute.

On Monday, Mizoram plays Maharashtra while Punjab takes on Railways.

The results:

West Bengal 1 (S. K. Faiz 90’) beat Chandigarh 0

Goa 2 (Latesh Mandrekar 49, Liston Colaco 52) beat Meghalaya 1 (Enestar Malngiang 54).

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