Bengal lift Santosh Trophy for 32nd time
Bambolim (Goa): Bengal won the 71st national football championship for the Santosh Trophy beating Goa 1-0 in the title clash here on Sunday.
The goal arrived at the dying minutes of injury time as Manvir Singh netted the winner for Bengal.
Manvir's 119th-minute left-footed strike following a pass from Shaikhom Ronald Singh gave Bengal their record 32nd Santosh Trophy, leaving the huge crowd shocked.
The game that promised so much, delivered little, with Bengal having the lion's share of possession and the greater of the chances. Goa started with an unchanged line-up from their semi-final win against Kerala.
Goa's best chance came 12 minutes after the start when Aaren D'Silva was lucky to get the ball off a defensive rebound, but with his back facing the goal, he failed to turn and take a shot past the Bengal keeper Sankar Roy.
Ten minutes later Bengal thought they went ahead when Basanta Singh had the ball in the back of the net, however the referee ruled that he controlled the ball with his hand and he received a booking for his offence.
Then just before half time Bengal nearly took the lead when a defensive clearance by Peter Carvalho fell straight to Bishal Pradhan who unleashed a powerful pile driver that went just past the side post.
Goa's best chance in the second half came off a Brian Mascarenhas free kick which went inches above the cross bar.
That was about it for Goa as Bengal started to dominate possession, create chances and smother almost all of Goa's attacks.
Goa then suffered a jolt when right back Nicolau Colaco had to be replaced by George D'Souza (72nd minute). The forced change appeared to unsettle Goa's defenders. Manvir Singh and his strike partner Basanta Singh, in particular, started to exploit Goa's weakness on the right flank.
On one occasion, it needed a crucial block from Melvin Lobo to deny Basanta a sure goal, while just seven minutes before the end of regulation time, Bruno Colaco was forced into a fingertip save after Basanta cut in from the left and unleashed a curler.
Goa had a chance to nick it just seconds before the final whistle but Glan's weak shot, after he was brilliantly put in by Liston, was saved by the keeper.
In the first period of extra time, Bengal left off from where they started and they nearly scored the opening goal. Basanta's header rebounding off Peter and crashing off the underside of the cross bar. Luckily for Goa the ball didn't cross the line.
The second period of extra time too saw George D'Souza being completely exposed on the right side of defence with Basanta and Manvir both making mazy runs and cutting inside leaving Goa on the edge.
Just when Bengal were getting ready for their second successive tie breaker, Goa's weakness on the right came to haunt them in the 119th minute when Manvir came up with the winning goal for the eastern state.
Bengal has played 44 finals in the history of the tournament. They won the crown previously in 2010-11.
After the win, Indian Football Association president Subrata Dutta told IANS: "Bengal has once again proved to be the best football State of the country, winning the Santosh Trophy 32 times which is 25 times more than any other state in India.
"I am sure with the AIFF's introduction of the State ranking system. Bengal will always come first."
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also congratulated her state's team on the win. "Heartiest congratulations to Team #Bengal for winning the Santosh Trophy. We are all proud of you," she wrote on Twitter.
(with inputs from IANS)