Bengal begins with a tight win over Karnataka

Punjab beat Manipur 3-0 in a Group D match of the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship at the Lal Bahadur Stadium here on Saturday. West Bengal edged Karnataka by a solitary first half-goal as the 31-time champion began its campaign in Group D with a tight win.

The match between the two former champions turned out to be one-sided and drab affair, with Manipur doing its reputation no good by playing like novices; it couldn’t even manage a decent try at the rival goal.

Rohit (8th minute), Bali Gagandeep (34th) and Sukhjit Singh (74th) were the scorers for Punjab.

Punjab dominated from the start, with the trio of Taranjit Singh, Rohit and Gagandeep testing the Manipur goalkeeper Raj Kumar repeatedly.

West Bengal tactically outplayed Karnataka which relied heavily on its strikers Stephen and Rajesh to deliver the goods. But threat from the twin strikers was effectively blunted by the water-tight defence.

After a brief period in the first half when Karnataka called the shots, the West Bengal midfield took control of the proceedings.

Francis Xavier and Arjun Chatterjee worked overtime to feed striker Nabin Hela whose pace proved to be tough for Karnataka defence to handle.

In the 24th minute, Hela received a loose ball from middle and advanced into the rival box unchallenged. But with only the goalkeeper to beat, Hela lost control and the ball was cleared away by the defence.

But Hela made amends for his earlier miss by finding the net in the 34th minute, following a corner and a goalmouth scrum.

Karnataka goalkeeper Sarath Narayana denied Hela in the 44th minute with a smart save.

Karnataka came out with all guns blazing in the second half, but Bengal held firm.

The results: Punjab 3 (Rohit 8, Bali Gagandeep 34, Sukhjit Singh 74) bt Manipur 0.

West Bengal 1 (Nabin Hela 34) bt Karnataka 0.

Sunday’s matches: Group D: Goa v Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu v Jharkhand.

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