Dipendu carries Bengal to semis - Santosh Trophy - Punjab through despite defeat

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Gurgaon
  • Published 19.10.06
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Gurgaon: Skipper Dipendu Biswas’ goal-scoring abilities came alive when it mattered most. Faced with a must-win situation against Punjab, Biswas struck a brilliant goal off a free kick in the 57th minute to take Bengal to the semi-finals of the Santosh Trophy at the Devi Lal Sports Complex here on Wednesday.

The 1-0 victory not only came as a big relief for Bengal, but also spelt doom for defending champions Goa, who lost out to Punjab on better goal difference after being tied on four points. Bengal made it to the last-four stage from Group A with six points.

While Punjab’s goal difference is 2-1, Goa, after their unexpected 2-2 draw against Haryana, remained stuck at 4-4.

Bengal were certainly a determined lot against Punjab. The grit and fortitude they displayed from the very beginning had Punjab in a spot throughout the first half. Time and again the Bengal attackers tore open the Punjab goalmouth but failed to create enough room to find the target. Only once, Rahim Nabi had a good chance when he broke through, but goalkeeper Kameshwar narrowed the gap to foil him at the last moment.

The elusive goal finally came 12 minutes after the breather when Rahim Nabi was tripped on the top of the Punjab box. Biswas, who came up to take the free-kick, send a curving right-footer that had Punjab goalkeeper Kameshwar totally stranded. It was a superb strike by any standard. No wonder Biswas received a standing ovation from the spectators after the match.

The changes that were made in the Bengal defence and midfield had a good effect on their performance. The two new faces in the midfield — Asim Das and Tapan Maity — worked tirelessly to thwart the Punjab strikers and add punch to the attack. With Nabi playing his heart out, Punjab were left fighting with their backs to the wall and could never increase men in attack.

The absence of Manjit Singh due to an injury blunted Punjab attacks to a great extent. With the Bengal defence, led by Habibur Rehman, keeping a close watch, Punjab could never come close to scoring except on a couple of occasions. Kalyan Chowbey was Bengal’s saviour both times.

Earlier, in the day’s first match Goa barely avoided the ignominy of losing to lowly Haryana and were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw, though it didn’t really help them in the end. Trailing 1-2 till a minute before the final whistle, Goa managed to restore parity when substitute Nicolas Borges headed in a faulty clearance by Haryana goalkeeper Novjot.

For the rest of the outing, the home team held the defending champions by their collars. After Freddy Mascarenhas put Goa into the lead off a spot kick in the 62nd minute, Haryana came back strongly to equalise three minutes later through Sandeep Malik. Sanjeev put Haryana ahead with a brilliant goal in the 75th minute.

TEAMS

Bengal: Kalyan Chowbey; Habibur Rehman, Shyam Mondal, Sanjeev Maria, Bijoy Basfore; Suman Dutta, Avinash Thapa, Asim Das, Tapan Maity; Rahim Nabi, Dipendu Biswas.

Punjab: T.H. Kameshwar; Jaspal Singh, Narinder Singh, Harpreet Singh, Sukhjinder Singh; Jaswinder Singh (Shivraj Singh), Daljit Singh, Yadwinder Singh (Harish Sharma), Hardeep Saini (Daljit Singh); Praveen Kumar, Baldeep Singh.

Referee: Dhanraj More.