Bengal regains crown

DULIAJAN, JUNE 16. Bengal regained the Manindra Dutta Roy trophy defeating holder Goa 3-1 in the final of the OIL 10th National under-21 football championship here at the Nehru Maidan on Saturday. Bengal, which lost to the same opposition 0-1 in the final played at Dumka (Jharkhand) last year, thus avenged its loss by winning the title for the third occasion in the decade- old tournament.

Goa shot into the lead in the 33rd minute with its striker Alex Ambrose finishing a cross from Desmond Fernandes. Bengal equalised just before the half-time getting captain Swarup Chatterjee to score in the last minute of the first session. Sandipan Das took Bengal ahead in the 55th minute, while Shyambabu Rout sealed the title by scoring the winning goal two minutes later.

The strain of playing for the third consecutive day appeared to tell on the Goans, who appeared a bit sluggish in their approach today. Goa seeing its semifinal match against Karnataka abandoned on Thursday had to play a rematch on Friday before winning it 6-5 via tie-breakers. ``The boys needed at least a day's rest before playing such an important match. The lack of a break definitely lessened their effort just when it was needed the most,'' said Goa coach Peter Vales, who had guided the team to the title last year. Despite all this, Goa began strongly and had Bengal on the defensive in the first quarter of the match. The exchanges favoured Goa, as the midfield, led by hard- working Clifford Miranda, got the ball breaching the Bengal defence more often than not. Goa striker, Alex Ambrose, showed a great knack in outwitting his markers but fell short of finishing. Hence, kept the scoresheet blank for the first 30 minutes. The Goan moves upfront spoke of sound planning highlighting a proper utilisation of the flanks. Both the wing- halves Desmond Fernandes on the left and Santa Singh on the right worked well on the flanks essaying repeated crosses from both ends. The Bengal defence did well to contain the oppositions' crosses with first time clearances but it eventually cracked as Goa kept up the pressure.

Goa attained the break in the 33rd minute buoyed by a great passing game that defeated Bengal's defensive ploy. Miranda, making a nice interception in his own half, was quick to release Ambrose near the opposition box. Ambrose relayed the ball to Fernandes on the left and the medio sent a prompt cross. With the Bengal defence drawn towards Fernandes, Ambrose sneaked into the box unmarked and had no trouble in finishing the pass from his colleague on the flank. Goa maintained the attacks and had Ambrose with another chance in the 43rd minute but the forward sent the ball wide this time. A snap counter attack by Bengal restored parity just before the break as Swarup Chatterjee scored the equaliser creating most of the confusion in the Goan defence after medio Sujoy Dutta created the opportunity with a minus from the right.

The second session saw luck favouring the Bengal side as a misjudgement on the part of the Goa custodian, Paul Vaz, fetched the lead for the former ten minutes following the break. Vaz, preferred over the regular Mafildo Coelho, made an innocuous looking long-ranger difficult by mistiming his dive to have the ball slip from his grip before rolling into the goal. The gifted advantage rejuvenated Bengal and it lost no opportunity in cementing the lead with another strike two minutes later. With the Goa defence still smarting form the sudden change in fortune, a long ball from Bengal forward Lakshman Ghosh presented his colleague, Shyambabu Rout, a opportunity inside the Goa box. Rout received the pass unchallenged and was quick to unleash a right- footer that sailed past Vaz. The two quick goals gave Bengal the necessary lead and the team successfully held on to the scoreline to ensure the title after a gap of three years. Bengal coach Mridul Banerjee said that he got only four days to train before the tournament and said, ``the boys hence took time to strike rhythm. The best show was thus in the final as the boys peaked in the right moment.''