The Italians were tactically superior
Sourav, Arpita emerge individual champions
Tolly, Port play out dull draw
13 share lead after Round 2
Small owners deserve better deal

It was not the most satisfying match of Euro 2000 but the final stood out for the kind of tactical battle it witnessed. It was eventually a classic example of the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip but one has to laud the Italians for the strategic mastery they demonsrated.

They had to be content with the runners-up spot after being seconds away from their second European title. But they almost made France dance to their own, distinctive tune.

Dispelling speculations that they will sit deep and play the ultra-waiting game they did against Holland, Italy chose to be slightly offensive in the beginning. They changed their plan in the second half and it was almost curtains for the world champions.

There was no pressure on Dino Zoff�s men, they had nothing to lose and their ploy was simple: eliminate Zinedine Zidane, dispossess others near the centre-circle and put the French defence under pressure. Their own defence was solid as ever and Paolo Maldini ensured there was no French invasion down the right through Thierry Henry.

They did not try to be overzealous and played within their limitations. They had their defenders in place, though, the line they were standing on was well in front of the one they maintained against Holland.

France looked short on ideas at this stage and played into the Italian trap by not trying to slow down proceedings. They tried to counter aggression with aggression, which was injudicious, and it took them about 30 minutes to fathom what was happening. They should have resorted to the kind of �possessional� football the Italians were playing much before they did.

The second half was tactically intriguing as Italy withdrew a little bit in an attempt to reduce the effective length of the turf.

With nine players in their own half, they invited France to clear the centre-circle and concentrated on thwarting them there. This was a risky ploy and allowed the French more freedom but it also meant there would be more gaps on their side of the pitch.

The Italians were expecting this as it increased their chances of scoring on the counterattack which they eventually did. Out of desperation, France started moving forward even more and that resulted in more gaps in their half. This is exactly what the Italians were looking for and could have sealed the match had Alessandro del Pierro not muffed up two good chances.

Not many teams can afford to play in this format as it puts tremendous pressure on the defence and on the midfield but the Italians showed once again why they are among the best when it comes to defensive organisation. Italy proved yet again that it�s possible to frustrate a technically superior side like France even if they cannot match their skill. Midfielders Luigi di Biagio and Demetrio Albertini did a splendid job and it was surprising to see the former being taken off when they had just minutes to survive.

France made a couple of tactical errors in the first half. They didn�t try to slow down the pace of the game when Italy went on the offensive and the other error was to switch Henry to the left wing once he failed to trouble Maldini on the right. Henry is predominantly a right-footer and his left-footed attempts never troubled the Italian goalkeeper.

France did lift their game in the second half and tried to keep the ball on the ground which they should have done earlier. Zidane, though not at his best, started controlling the pace and things started looking better for his team. But the Italian defence weathered all that with clinical efficiency and there was no real threat barring the goals they conceded. In fact, those were the only occasions when France really breached the Italian defence.

This edition of the European championship witnessed a lot of variety and there were quite a few open matches which made it interesting to watch. It also showed that though football is not exactly the �gentleman�s game�, it can produce a lot of �glorious uncertainties�.    

Calcutta, July 3 
Kotrong Bhupendra Smriti Boys High School and Tarasundari Vidya Bhavan won the team titles in the Patterson Memorial inter-school table tennis meet at Khudiram Anushilan Kendra today.

Sourav Prodhan of Manicktala High School and Arpita Banerjee of Tarasundari Vidya Bhavan emerged best in the individual categories. Sourav beat Kotrong Bhupendra Smriti�s Chiranjeeb Chowdhury 21-16, 21-16. In the girls� final, Arpita beat schoolmate Tamisra Kundu 21-12, 21-11.


Boys� team championship final: Kotrong Bhupendra Smriti Boys High School beat South Point 3-1. Avishek Karmakar lost to I. P. Ghatak 21-15, 17-21, 18-21; Chiranjib Chowdhury bt B. Ganesh 21-12, 21-16; Biswadip Dhar and Chiranjib Chowdhury bt P. Ghatak and Saptarshi Chakraborty 21-19, 15-21, 21-11; Chiranjib Chowdhury bt P. Ghatak 21-17, 20-22, 21-12. Girls� super league: Tarasundari Vidya Bhavan bt Barrackpur Girls HS 3-0, bt Methodist HS 3-0. Barrackpur Girls HS bt Methodist HS 3-0.

Behala Youth win 3-1

Behala Youth beat Kalighat Club 3-1 in a first division group A match today. Ghulam Rasul scored two goals and Santanu Das one. A.K. Kolay struck for Kalighat.

Radheswar Debnath struck in Eastern Coalfields� 1-0 win over Aryan while Surojit Das and Christian Okolonko scored in Bhratri Sangha�s 2-0 win over Sonali Shibir. The match between Mohammedan AC and Howrah Union ended 1-1. Sudip Khastagir scoring for the former with S. Kolay replying. Bata Sports and Kidderpur SC also played out a 1-1 draw. In fourth division action, RHAC drubbed Sarat Samity 8-0 with hattricks from Rupak Haldar and Sanjay Haldar.    

Calcutta, July 3 

A barren and boring draw between Tollygunge Agragami and Calcutta Port Trust today left the latter with slim chances of making it to the semi-final of the McDowell Cup.

A few policemen and some club officials witnessed a painstaking and drab affair at the Salt Lake Stadium as Tollygunge, the more fancied of the two, wasted a couple of sitters to ensure that a big defeat against Mohun Bagan Wednesday will ruin their hopes of reaching the last-four stage.

Mohun Bagan had defeated Port Trust 4-1 in the first match in group A and a bigger demolition of Tollygunge will send Shankar Moitra�s team packing from the first tournament of the season.

Things, however, could have been different had strikers Bhabani Mohanty and Abdullateef Seriki not muffed up a chance each, on either side of the break. Seriki received a loose ball on the edge of the box in the 37th minute and shrugged off two defenders which allowed him a clear look at the goal. His stinging right-footer from 15 yards, however, hit the horizontal bar after beating goalkeeper Sandip Guha.

Mohanty�s job was much simpler. After being put through cleverly by Soumitra Chakraborty in the 85th minute, Mohanty ran a few steps but shot straight into the goalkeeper despite having him at his mercy.

These chances apart, the match was a forgettable affair, and Tollygunge must lift their game if they hope to put up a semblance of a fight against Mohun Bagan.

EB meet Md. Sp.

Mohammedan Sporting begin their campaign in group B against East Bengal tomorrow. East Bengal beat FCI by a solitary goal yesterday. Mohammedan Sporting are unlikely to field injured Kasif Jamal and Ohidul Islam.

Bengal men lose

Bengal men lost 28-33 to Karnataka on the opening day of the 13th national kho kho championship at Netaji Indoor Stadium today. Karnataka women edged Manipur 18-17. In another men�s match, BSB beat Delhi 24-18.    

Guwahati, July 3 
Thirteen players led with two points each, while six others were half a point behind them after Round Two of The Telegraph Schools Chess Championship at the ABITA Centenary Indoor Hall today.

Nabajyoti Boro of A-New-High School, Tinsukia overcame Twinkle Daulaguphu of Assam Valley School, Tezpur after a four-hour battle. Playing white, he survived anxious moments. On the 20th move, Boro pushed his king pawn e4 to challenge the centre, but his opponent avoided pawn exchange and played b6 instead.

Boro further advanced his king pawn e5 and thus created an outpost for his knight on d6 which prompted Daulaguphu to trade off the queens and the bishops. Finding no easy way out against the Tezpur boy, Boro doubled his rooks on open queen bishop file, but not before shutting up the queen file by placing his knight menacingly on the d6 outpost.

Inept handling made Daulaguphu�s pair of rooks unwieldy, besides he had to dig in his knight in the rear for defence. Boro�s rooks penetrated black�s back ranks, setting up a trap or two for his rival.

Daulaguphu was careful enough not to be lured into any of them, albeit he had to lose a pawn in the tactical skirmishes on the queen�s wing. With a pawn up in a knight and pawn ending, Boro faced little difficulty to exchange the knights as well. He then marched rook and bishop pawns on the queenside for the victory.

Abhinob Baruah made short work of the less-fancied Mriganka Buzarbaruah (Maharishi Vidyamandir, Guwahati) in 23 moves.

After putting his king to safety, on the ninth move, Buzarbaruah�s king pawn fell to Baruah�s king knight Nxe4 on the 10th move. The stunned Guwahati youngster played d3 in a jiffy to thwart the knight from the centre. But the move left his queen bishop on c3 unsupported.


Ananya Chakravorty (1) lost to Nirmal Jyto Sarma (2); Arup Saha (1) lost to Pankaj Nayan Singh (2); Bikramjit Dhar (2) bt Pranjal Gogoi (1); Nilutpal Baithoque (2) bt Bubon Ch Singh (1); Digbijoy Singh (2) bt Rajib Lochan Sikaria (1); Durlov Nanda (2) bt Rana Dey (1); Omeshore Lairengem (2) bt Dwaipan Nath (1); Potshangbam Sanjoy (2) bt Gautam Gogoi (1); Gurumayum Inao Sharma (2) bt Rishikesh Thakuria (1); Harimohan Singh (1) lost to Rituraj Kaushik (2); Raktim Kumar Borah (1) lost to Irengbem Singh (2) : jayanta Md. Baruah (1) lost to Rustom Raktim Dutta (2); Ranjan Talukdar (2) bt Jnandeep Barbaruah (1) and Rithin Saha lost to Samraj Singh.    

Whatever the geographical disadvantage of being cornered in the East, the Calcutta monsoon racing season has always had a charm of its own. Things, however, had not been going right in the recent past. The foremost reason for the dwindling number of runners with each passing year could be the waning interest of the small horse owners in the local proceedings.

For instance, race attendance is on the increase and so is the totalisator takings. How come the horse-strength came down alarmingly? Some point out that a good number of horses going down to Bangalore could be the reason behind the poor state of the monsoon fare. But the big local owners have always been doing this over the years.

The main reason is the complete dominance of the heavyweights in the local field, so that lesser owners are not even left with the bottom of the cash box to scrape. A small owner derives satisfaction from leading in a winner of two even at the cost of ending the season in the red. Currently their presence appears to be for a virtual charity.

In the current RCTC prospectus, there are a good number of races restricted for horses rated 50 and downwards who have not placed among the first three during the winter season. The turf club may work out a similar package for this section of single, joint and the multiple-syndications as well. It may certainly give some impetus to this breed of owners. For the record, five of Saturday�s six events were lifted by bigwigs.

On the positive side, competition on the day was free from any malpractice. Outsiders ruled because favourites had as much to offer.

Crucible in the opener, the Artemis Handicap, and On The Bit in the Zifi Handicap looked to be a shade underdone but the weight advantage saw the two three-year-olds in the winning enclosures. In fact, Crucible, the Vijay Singh-trainee hardly looked good even for the second spot when the field turned for home. On The Bit, on the other hand, was a comfortable start-to-finish winner. The second placed Ashbury could do better over a slightly longer course than 1,100m.

Trainer Bharath Singh landed a treble. His first winner, the 5-4 favourite Alocina in the Prince Lyon Cup, looked a winner long way from home and may come good again. However, Bharath�s Kansai was a friendless winner in the 1,100m Bhishma Cup, the feature event. Jockey S. Rabani delayed his move until the speedsters burnt themselves out and the seven-year-old responded gamely. The 7-4 favourite, Jeweller, needs more ground to produce his best and may be kept in mind.

Bharath�s third winner, Super Smile in the Absolution Handicap, was a trifle lucky as Mameena, another strong contender for the prize, lost some ground at the start. Manohar brushed the John Stephen-trainee and inspired the mare to come within easy reach of the favourite, but she fell shy by three parts of a length at the wire. Third placed Storm Centre, too impressed.    


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