Santosh Trophy: Manipur rally to hold Bengal

June 4th, 2009 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, June 4 (IANS) Tenacious Manipur fought back from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw with Bengal in a Group A quarter-final league match and maintain their unbeaten run in the 63rd National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy, here Thursday.
Manipur, who had rebounded from 0-1 to post a 2-1 win against Punjab Tuesday, nearly did the same. Bengal led by a 10th minute goal from Pachau Lalam Puia. However, Manipur fought back and equalized in the 59th minute through Singam Subash Singh who had struck the match-winner against Punjab.

In a lively encounter, Bengal put in a far better performance. Fielding a reshuffled line-up, they had more ball possession than Manipur.

The early goal by Puia, who collected a pass from Subho Kumar then beat a defender on the turn to score, put Bengal in good heart and they knit together some fine moves.

There was a touch of assurance about Bengal, but then they had to reckon with the fleet-footed Manipur players who were ever alert for an opportunity.

There were some typical quick runs by the Manipur forwards who looked dangerous when on the move. However, the Bengal deep defence was up to the task although goalkeeper Abhra Mondal’s work did not always inspire confidence.

The goal apart, much of the first half saw the ball being swung from one end to the other with both teams resorting to switching flanks by using the cross balls. Had the finish matched the approach work, there could have been more goals than just one in the first session.

On resumption, the teams indulged in thrust and parry and had the contest on even keel though Manipur seemed to gain in stature with their persistence.

Early into the second-half, Khenthang Paite’s foul on Gouranga Biswas led to the rival players eyeballing and jostling resulting in a yellow card for Biswajit Saha.

Soon came Manipur’s equalizer from an innocuous cross from the left by Bisheshwor Singh that goalkeeper Mondal fumbled with. The ball rolled free to Reisangmi Vasum and his attempt was helped home by Subash Singh who got the last touch before the ball crossed the goal-line.

Thereafter, Manipur stepped up the pace and aggression, hassling the Bengal defence no end. There were some searing runs and the Bengal box was peppered with crosses.

The Bengal goal lived a dangerous existence in the last quarter with Manipur in quest for the match-winner that looked imminent. Under the onslaught, the Bengal defenders barely managed to avert damage.

In a last ditch effort to score their first win, Bengal launched into an all-out attack in the last five minutes of the regulation period and nearly scored twice as Gouranga Biswas’ attempt first came off goalkeeper Basant Singh and a defender, and a little later, Denson Devdas’ free-kick rebounded off the upright.

Indeed, Manipur were lucky on the day, but perhaps, they deserved all of it, while Bengal paid the penalty for muffing several gilt-edged chances to settle for their second draw in as many matches.

Friday’s matches:

Karnataka vs Maharashtra (4 p.m.); Services vs Goa (6.30 p.m.).

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