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Bengal start with a draw

Calcutta: Bengal failed to maintain their tempo after a positive start and had to play out a barren draw versus Punjab in their Santosh Trophy opener, at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, in Siliguri, on Thursday.

Coach Sisir Ghosh’s men got off to an aggressive start, as for the first 20 minutes, it was all about Bengal. Punjab defenders were forced to be on their toes, courtesy a barrage of attacks from the Kartik Kiskus and Nabin Helas.

It looked as if the goal was just a matter of time. But unfortunately, Bengal footballers got everything right except scoring. Within the first 10 minutes, the 31-time champions came perilously close to getting a lead. As early as in the fourth minute, a shot from Abhishek Aich beat the rival custodian only to hit the upright.

Moments later, captain Kisku came up with a perfect lob that looked destined to find the target. But a Punjab defender produced a wonderful clearance, inches away from the goalline, to deflect the ball to safety.

Thereafter, Punjab started playing long balls that helped them to thwart Bengal. The ploy worked as Punjab gained more ground and gradually worked their way to hold an upper hand till the end of the first half.

Precisely, Punjab, too, could have had their way had Gurpreet Singh and Jaswinder Singh not squandered easy chances.

The second half, however, was a stark contrast as both teams played dull, drab football with hardly any openings whatsoever. “We played poorly particularly in the second half. Nabin, who was pretty impressive last year, was not in his best at all today.

“We need to make sure we maintain a superior ball-possession and don’t miss easy chances. These areas have to be sorted out when we play our next match,” Sisir said.

Bengal play Goa in their next match, on Saturday.