GOA: History repeated itself in the Santosh Trophy as Bengal stunned Goa 1-0 to emerge champions in final of the 71st National Football Championship on Sunday. Bengal had defeated Goa 2-0 to emerge champions when the last time Goa hosted the Santosh Trophy final round in 1996.
Manvir Singh struck a dramatic extra-time winner to help Bengal claim their 32nd Santosh Trophy triumph at GMC Athletics Stadium in Bambolim.
Victory was all the more remarkable for Bengal and their coach Mridul Banerjee, who had to sacrifice his Mohammedan Sporting Club coaching job to led the state team. But growing belief and a magnificent display of teamwork helped the young Bengal side defy the odds and prove worthy victors in what was their first win in the tournament since 2011.
The grand finale saw both teams maintaining a high tempo in the opening 45 minutes which meant they had enough chances to seize the initiative.
Bengal distinctly had an upper hand with the chances they created and went close on several occasions, Goa in the bargain did well but could not break down the Bengal defense and all their attempts were from long which Bengal’s sprightly shot-stopper Sankar Roy stood tall.
Bengal began the game by sustaining Goa’s dominance in the first 10 minutes. After some half chances in the opening exchanges, Goa went close when Mumtaz Akhtar lost the ball in midfield and Brian Mascarenhas launched a quick counter attack. He got past his marker and pushed the ball to Liston Colaco who tried to finish it off but his shot was blocked by Provat Lakra.
However, as the game progressed, Bengal gradually gained control and after pushing up for a long time, Bengal created the best chance of the first half in the 34th minute. Basanta Singh cut in from the right and with an intelligent ball sent Manvir clear on the left. The Punjab-born striker controlled the ball and tried to volley over the keeper but he was denied by a brilliant save from rival custodian Bruno Colaco.
Bengal kept on pushing forward and had two more close chances, but the strike pair of Basanta and Manvir were both denied by Bruno as first half ended goalless.
The second half was a similar story to the first as Bengal continued to dominate proceedings. But once again it was the lack of finishing that let them down.
Having created numerous half chances, Bengal went extremely close on two occasions midway through the half. First it was Mumtaz whose attempt from outside was denied by the keeper.
Then the rival custodian followed it up with another save, this time to block Basanta who smashed a powerful low drive from close range.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Goa too had a few close chances but the Bengal defense led by skipper Rana Ghrami worked well to thwart every single attempt throughout the half prompting the addition of another 30 minutes of extra time.
Goa looked tired and short of ideas in extra-time as Bengal continued to press forward, Manvir heading just over the bar from Ronald’s corner, then Bishal Pradhan flashing just wide on the counter attack.
And the winner came in dramatic fashion three minutes from time when Ronald collected the ball on the left side and flicked it inside for Manvir who curled into the far corner which Bruno could only watch helplessly sail into the goal.
In the remiander of extra-time Bengal produced yet another solid defensive performance to protect their lead and crowned the new kings of the Santosh Trophy.