Kolkata, Aug 6 : Twenty-nine-time winners Bengal rallied back after an early setback to pip title holders Goa 4-3 (1-1) via a dramatic tie-breaker to move into the final of the 64th Santosh Trophy soccer competition here Friday.
The Goans, who were ahead after the initial rounds of penalty shots, fumbled towards the very end as the fourth spot kick taken by seasoned campaigner John Dias hit the post off Bengal custodian Abhra Mandal’s finger, while the final effort from Nicholas Rodrigues was a feeble one and the goalkeeper saved it with his legs.
With the score level 3-3, Denson Devadas converted the final penalty for his team to take Bengal through to their 42nd final in the inter-state competition, triggering a mini-celebration in the Salt Lake Stadium galleries. Bengal thus avenged their tie-breaker defeat to the Goans in the final of the previous edition of the meet at Chennai last year.
Minutes earlier, the defending champions seemed well on course to the final as Godwin Franco, Cavin Lobo and Adil Khan converted the first three shots while Bengal’s Rajiv Ghosh took a weak grounder that was saved by Goan goalkeeper Felix D’souza.
Snehasish Chakraborty and Souvik Chakraborty then scored to keep Bengal afloat before Dias’s miss helped the hosts come back on level terms as Sheikh Azim converted the fourth setpiece to make the scoreline 3-3.
Bengal will meet with the winners of the second semi final between Punjab and Tamil Nadu in Sunday’s final.
The exciting match played at a fast space saw the Goans go ahead in the 20th minute. A Denzil Franco header from inside the box was nodded into the net by Milagres Gonsalves, with his back to the goal.
Bengal, who started off cohesively, seemed to have been taken aback by the goal and played aimlessly as the Goans established their domination aided by a well-oiled midfield.
However, after the change of ends, it was a one-way affair, as waves of Bengal raids descended into the Goans’ territory, but Covan Lawrence stood firm in the defence while Felix D’Souza seemed in no mood to let in anything past him.
As time wore on, Bengal increased the pressure and at times it seemed the Goan citadel would crumble, but time and again Felix came to his team’s rescue.
The Goans, however, went on counter attacks on a few occasions and even created a couple of chances which were wasted by Gonsalves.
Bengal finally scored in the 84th minute through Robin Singh. Getting a centre from R. Dhanarajan, Robin trapped well, evaded two defenders and then shot home with a power-packed left footer.
Bengal had the lion’s share of ball possession in the remaining minutes of the match as also half an hour of extra time but the deadlock could not be broken and the tie-break had to be resorted to. (IANS)