Cardozo stars in Bengal's facile win

Amitabha Das Sharma
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FOOTBALL/ Manipur dashes Tamil Nadu's hopes with a 2-1 victory

BRAVO BRANCO!Branco Vincent Cardozo (left) was a three-goal hero in defending champion Bengal's easy win over Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.— PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR
BRAVO BRANCO!Branco Vincent Cardozo (left) was a three-goal hero in defending champion Bengal's easy win over Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.— PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR

Branco Vincent Cardozo scored a hat-trick to help Bengal drub Chhattisgarh 4-1 and make a confident start to its title defence in the opening Group ‘A' league encounter of the 65th senior National football tournament, for the Santosh Trophy, at the Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.

Budhiram Tudu scored the other goal to complement Cardozo's fine effort. Bengal skipper Anupam Sarkar's own goal helped Chhattisgarh reduce the margin.

Beginning on a confident note, the holder made its intent right from the start and got an early success, riding on the skills of Cardozo.

Early strike

The goal route opened for Bengal in the 10th minute when an attempted centre from Sorabuddin Mollick deflected off the Chhattisgarh midfielder Zosang Puia to reach the unmarked Cardozo on top of the latter's box. The stocky striker replied with a powerful volley that hit the underside of the crosspiece to find the net.

With Budhiram Tudu providing good support to Cardozo upfront, the Bengal attack looked sharp and sure. The early goal inspired the holder to go for a bigger margin, which was realised in the 23rd minute.

Cardozo made good use a gifted opportunity, which came his way when the Chhattisgarh stopper-back Sannu Andrew missed an easy clearance to give the former an unchallenged run up to the goal.

The Bengal dominance in the first half was complete in the 25th minute when Tudu, who had earlier wasted a scoring chance, found the mark off a fine solo effort. Showing good footwork, the crafty forward dribbled past couple of defenders and completed his job with a smart push that beat the hapless Chhattisgarh custodian Nitesh Murthy.

Missed penalty

The second session was comparatively sedate as Bengal apparently took it easy, enjoying a three-goal cushion. Chhattisgarh got an opportunity to reduce the margin with a 70th minute penalty. But the Bengal custodian Naseem Akhtar blocked substitute Prabhat Kumar's attempt from the spot.

Cardozo completed his hat-trick in the 82nd minute. The striker produced a fine side volley to finish a back-cross from Tudu to accomplish a personal landmark.

With barely three minutes remaining, Chhattisgarh found the consolation goal gifted by Bengal skipper Sarkar, who miscued a clearance.

Manipur gave a jolt to Tamil Nadu's hopes downing the latter 2-1 in the second quarterfinal group ‘A' encounter on Tuesday. Following a barren first half the goals came in the second session with I. Nilakumar Singh and L. Nabachandra Singh scoring for Manipur and striker Ramesh fetching one for Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu, though initially enjoying a greater share of ball possession, was undone by the pace of Manipur attacks later on.

The first session saw both the sides getting two scoring opportunities. Striker Nabachandra Singh, who spearheaded the Manipur attacks, wasted both the chances in the first session. On the other hand Tamil Nadu was unlucky not to find an early goal as the crosspiece came in the way of a fine header from Freddy in 33rd minute.

Sanjha Kumar sent the ball over from close in the second opportunity that came Tamil Nadu's way.

Manipur went into the lead in the 57th minute when Nilakuamr Singh gained from confusion in the Tamil Nadu defence.

The Tamil Nadu custodian Arun Pradeep messed up an attempted clearance and gifted the ball to the opposition forward Nabachandra Singh, who immediately passed on to Nilakumar to put the ball into an open net (1-0). Tamil Nadu was back in the action six minutes later when Ramesh found the top of the Manipur net with a rasping rightfooter to even the scoreline.

Tamil Nadu's joy, however, was short-lived as Manipur regained the lead in the 58th minute through a fine angular left-footer from Nabachandra, as the ball hit the Tamil Nadu upright before finding the net.

Wednesday matches:

Pre-quarterfinal play-offs:Services vs Delhi (Guwahati); Tripura vs Railways (Bongaigaon).

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