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Defeat puts Bengal on verge of ouster

Imphal: Bengal went down 2-3 to defending champions Kerala in their second match of the quarter final round robin league at Khuman Lampak main Stadium Sunday.

In the day’s other match of the Santosh Trophy, Maharastra scraped through with a 1-0 victory over last year’s semi-finalist Railways.

Despite an early lead, Bengal conceded defeat because of several defensive lapses. In fact, two of the three goals were due to sloppy defending by the Bengal back-four. The Debjit Ghosh-led defence just failed to get its act together when it mattered.

Bengal coach Subrata Bhattacharya, however, held the referee and organisers squarely responsible for the Bengal debacle. “First the organisers fixed all the four Bengal matches at mid-day, then we were not allowed to be in full strength. And today, the referee refused to award two penalties in our favour after the Kerala defenders handled the ball inside the box,” the coach said after the match.

Kerala will meet Assam, who lost 1-2 against Bengal, on Tuesday. If Kerala defeat Assam, they will sail into the semi finals. Assam will not only have to beat Kerala but also register a better goal difference, to harbour any hopes of making it to the last-four stage.

Bengal had scraped past Assam 2-1 in their opening quarter final tie. If Bengal bow out in the quarter finals, this will be the second consecutive time that the glamour side has suffered such fate.

Bengal stared off in a whirwind fashion, going into the lead in the 20th minute through forward Chandas Das. Striker Dipendu Biswas passed on a long clearance from the left flank and Chandan hit a powerful shot, which hit the cross bar and ricocheted into the goal.

The refree’s decision to award the goal after initial hesitation was protested by Kerala but to no avail.

Stung by a goal, confident Kerala launched into counter offensive and in the 30th minute their efforts yielded results. A superb combination by T. Asif Saheer, M.A. Abdul Hakkim and S. Ignatious brought the equaliser when Ignatious’ beautiful header found the target just before the interval.

Playing the first match of this year’s edition of the national championship, in-form Kerala gradually took control of the proceedings while over confident Bengal lost control of the midfield.

Ignatious scored his second goal through a header off substitute T. Usman in 58th minute for Kerala to take the lead.

Bengal fought back and levelled the scoreline in 79th minute through an opportunistic strike by substitute Sandip Das.

But the chance to hold the defending champions 2-2 was thrown away by a sloppy Bengal defence. In 87th minute Ignatious’ floater found Usman who headed in. The Bengal defenders just did not react.

Chandan Das was given the yellow card for arguing with one of the linesman and then pushing the referee Rizwah-ul Haq.

Subrata, however, seemed happy with the performance of his boys today. “Despite certain limitations they played good football,” the coach said.

Kerala coach M. Peethambaran is confident of winning over Assam. “We are confident of retaining the trophy,” he said.

In the other match, skipper Naushad Moosa’s solitary first half-goal helped Maharastra overcome Railways.

The match began on a dull note with neither team being able to penetrate the rivals’ defence.

Railways wasted a close chance when Subash Chakraborty shot wide from an advantageous position in the 20th minute.

The winning goal came soon after with Moosa, waiting in the opponents’ box to receive the corner kick, headed home past the Railways custodian.

Three minutes later, Railways missed a gifted chance to restore parity when Stephen Dias, having only the Maharashtra goalkeeper to beat, shot wide off the mark.

Railways, however, suffered a jolt in the second half as referee Benjamin De Silva gave marching orders to Satish Bharti for rough play.

Tomorrow last year’s runners up Goa will take on Punjab in group C while Tamil Nadu meet Orissa.

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