Punjab beats Bengal in penalty shootout to lift Santosh Trophy
Gurgaon, Oct 25 (UNI) Punjab players held their nerve and withstood the pressure before pipping 29-time champions West Bengal 5-3 via penalty shootout to lift the 61st Santosh Trophy here today.
Parveen Kumar, Jaspal Singh, Narinder Singh, Daljit Singh and Harpreet Singh scored for Punjab, while Dipendu Biswas, Sanjiv Maria and Shyam Mandal converted their shots for Bengal.
For Bengal, Suman Dutta failed to score as his shot was blocked by Punjab goalkeeper Kamleshwar Singh.
This was Punjab's seventh title win, last coming in 1988 in Quilon and the win was a sweet revenge for Punjab who were beaten by Bengal in the 1994-95 final in Chennai. Bengal, on their part, had last won the title in 1999 in Goa.
Both the sides began on a cautious note, trying to dominate the midfield but the grand finale never rose to great height. In fact, it was an anti-climax of sort, compared to the Bengal-Kerala semifinal match and couple of quarterfinal matches.
The entire first half saw a single goal-scoring chance but Punjab striker Parveen Kumar failed to properly connect a Daljit Singh cross from the left, with the ball just kissing the former's head and going wide.
Punjab had a slight advantage in ball possession in the first half and they had couple of forays but with Sanjiv Maria in excellent form, Bengal defence held fort.
The second half saw better football with Bengal having the upper hand and getting at least three openings with left-back Soumik Dey making some dangerous overlapping moves.
As early as in the second minute after resumption, Avinash Thapa's looping left-footer from outside the box was tipped over the bar by Punjab goalkeeper Kamleshwar Singh.
Bengal got another chance in the 68th minute when Habibur Rahman Mandal fed Dipendu Biswas from the right and the Bengal captain got the better of two rival players before his left-footer was blocked by a Punjab defender. Nine minutes before the end of regulation time, an overlapping Soumik sent a fine cross from the left, which beat the Punjab goalkeeper but an onrushing Ashim Das failed to connect it properly with the ball hitting his left thigh and Punjab defenders had no problem to clear the ball.
After regulation time failed to produce any result, the match went into extra time and to the dismay of a large and vociferous Bengal crowd, Syed Rahim Nabi's goal in the seventh minute of the extra time was disallowed for being off-side.
In the penalty shoot out, Punjab's Parveen Kumar was lucky to put his team one up after his shot hit the upright and entered the net.
Thereafter, all their penalty-shooters scored while goalkeeper Kamleshwar dived to his left to save Suman Dutta's feeble right footer.
A jubilant Punjab coach Jagir Singh credited the win to team work.
''Since almost all my players, expect the goalkeeper, are from JCT, they have the understanding among them. It was 50-50 for both the teams in penalty shootouts but we won because we played more as a unit than Bengal,'' he reasoned.
''In fact we were ready for such a situation and the same five players did the penalty drill before the match. And with Bengal having their third choice goalkeeper today, we always had a better chance,'' he added.
His Bengal counterpart Prasanta Banerjee said he was not too unhappy despite losing the trophy.
''Most of the boys are young and inexperience. They have never played together before coming here and we were bit lucky in losing frontline goalkeepers Sandip Nandy and Kalyan Chaubey. Abhra Mandal, the replacement, is a junior player and we had no choice but to field him.
''Inspite of all these problems, my boys put up a good show and penalty shootout is always a matter of luck,'' he added.
Haryana got the Fair Play Trophy in the tournament.