Calcutta: Bengal, on Monday, bowed out of the Santosh Trophy after being held to a 1-1 draw by Railways in a Group B match, at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, in Siliguri.
Bengal conceded a goal in the last minute of added time in the second half. Jelendra Brahma turned out to be the super sub for Railways as he scored the equaliser. Striker Nilkanta Paria had put the hosts ahead in the 21st minute.
As a result of the draw, Bengal now have two points from three matches. Even if they win their last match, against Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, they will not be able to qualify for the semi-finals.
Tamil Nadu, who defeated Punjab 3-2, lead the group with six points from three matches and are already through to the semi-finals. Punjab, on the other hand, with three points, also bowed out of the tournament. The other two teams in the group. Railways and Goa, have five and four points respectively, and will face each other in their last group-stage match. Railways will need a draw to qualify while Goa will need three points to make the cut.
Talking about the match, Bengal’s performance was as abysmal as in the earlier matches. While the defenders looked disjointed, the midfielders lacked creativity and never really managed to create the openings. The strikers tried their best but could never really break the opposition defence.
Bengal, though, started the match on a positive note.
Nilkanta tried to head in Deepak Singh's long throw from the right. The ball looped up in the air and Railways goalkeeper Ehtesham Ahmed thought that the ball would miss the target. However, the ball dipped in the last moment and crossed the goalline, leaving the Railways players stunned.
Having taken the lead, the Bengal players should have sealed the tie by scoring another. Instead, they went into a shell and never ventured out in search of another goal. That they lacked killer instinct was evident from the fact that the strikers failed to create a clear chance in the second half.
Railways, on the other hand, were ransacking the Bengal citadel, putting in relentless pressure. The Bengal defence finally crumbled in the last minute of the added time.
Sibra Narzary’s swung in a free-kick from the left. The Bengal defenders should have easily cleared the ball. But they made a mess of it. Jelendra was at the right time at the right place to shot home the equaliser. Bengal goalkeeper Suvam Sen, who made the final XI after Debjit Majumdar was out injured, had no chance of making a save.
No wonder then Sisir was left disappointed. “I am shocked. I just don’t know how the players can put up such a performance… If you concede such goals, you don’t deserve to win.
“In the last match, too, we conceded a goal towards the end to lose. Today, again, we conceded a late goal. It was just a matter of clearing the ball and the defenders have failed in their task,” Sisir told The Telegraph.
Sisir came down heavily on the players. “Everyone knows about Bengal’s history in the tournament. But I don’t think the players understand the importance of wearing the Bengal jersey. They don’t deserve to wear the Bengal jersey…
“I had asked the players to play freely today. We had a specific plan… But they just couldn’t execute the plan. I don’t have words to express my frustration,” Sisir said.