Bengal force draw with late goal

June 2nd, 2009 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, June 2 (IANS) An injury time goal by Pachau Lalam Puia saved Bengal the blushes as the 29 times champions forced a 1-1 draw with hosts Tamil Nadu in a Group A quarter-final league match of the 63rd National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy here Tuesday.
Leading 1-0 on a 40th minute goal by P.C. Riju, Tamil Nadu, down to 10 men, succumbed to relentless pressure and conceded the equaliser with a minute left on the clock.

Earlier, in another Group A games, Manipur upstaged defending champions Punjab 2-1.

Tamil Nadu were reduced to 10 when Nallappan Mohanraj was booked twice by referee Pratap Singh (Services) following fouls on Gouranga Biswas in the ninth and 20th minutes and the second yellow card led to an automatic red card that also carries a one-match suspension.

Despite the setback, Tamil Nadu fought hard against a rather tentative Bengal and scored in the 40th minute when Riju was on hand to jab home a Prem Kumar lob following a throw-in and needless confusion in the defence.

The Riju strike came after a goal by Bengal when Gautham Thakur headed in a Snehashis Chakraborty pass in the 29th minute but was disallowed for off-side.

Though the game witnessed mostly up-and-down football with both teams creating and wasting a few chances, the pressure was more on Bengal who last won the trophy 10 years ago with a sizeable partisan crowd backing the home team.

Bengal repeatedly came up short at the finish and that cost them dear while Tamil Nadu, coming into the league having scored 30 goals in the preliminary competition, appeared far more confident if a touch defensive, especially in the latter part of the game.

The change in posture in the last quarter was Tamil Nadu’s undoing as Bengal kept the rival defence under pressure and slotted home the equaliser from a corner with unmarked Puia adding finishing touches to a pass by Habibur Rahman Mondal, four minutes into the five-minute injury time.

When Bengal forced the corner, Tamil Nadu, in fact, had nine men as Pradeep Mohanraj was pulled out and M. Parthibhan was sent in. However, Bengal took the corner even before Parthibhan could join his mates in the defence.

It was a close shave for Bengal who at best were patchy in contrast to Tamil Nadu who played well enough for most part but some lapses in the defence eventually cost them full points.

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