Bihar laboured to a solitary-goal win over Himachal Pradesh in a Cluster B match of the Santosh Trophy football championship at the Lal Bahadur Stadium here on Thursday.
The win, Bihar’s second, makes it joint leader with Karnataka with six points from two matches, while Himachal, which suffered its second defeat in three matches, is on its way out of the tournament.
It was by no means a convincing performance by Bihar which at times was dominated by an improved Himachal. But Himachal missed its suspended striker Ganesh Mohan badly as there was none upfront sharp enough to convert the numerous chances created by the midfielders.
Bihar settled down quite early in the match and had the first look at the rival goal in the 10th minute when Debasish Rai muscled his way into the penalty box and squared to Ujawal Gari who blasted it out in front of an open net.
After early jitters, Himachal asserted itself in the midfield but the moves fizzled out as it neared the penalty area. Bihar counter-attacked and a fast break saw Samu Hembrom move up deep into the Himachal penalty area and his centre was well connected by Shivbrat Gautham. Himachal goalkeeper Ranveer Singh could only parry the ball and Gari latched on to the rebound and scored with a right-footer.
Himachal played with more freedom in the second half and kept the Bihar defence under pressure with some well-coordinated moves. In the 56th minute, Bihar goalkeeper Hemant K. Gope had to come out of his guard and literally pluck the ball from Vikrant Rana’s feet.
Even as the action in the middle became a little boring, L. Chandan Kumar produced a stunning volley from the top of the box in the 70th minute, but the ball kissed the bar and went out. That was the closest Himachal came in the second half as Bihar held out for a win.
In another match in Cluster B, Arunachal Pradesh defeated Daman & Diu 1-0 for its first win in the tournament.
Toko Paliam scored the match-winner in the 23rd minute. This was the second straight defeat for Daman & Diu in the tournament.
The results: Bihar 1 (Ujawal Gari 37) bt Himachal Pradesh 0; Arunachal Pradesh 1 (Toko Paliam 23) bt Daman & Diu 0.
Friday’s matches: Cluster A: Jharkhand vs Chandigarh; Nagaland vs Gujarat.