Santosh Trophy: West Bengal narrowly beats Punjab in opening campaign

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West Bengal kicked off their Santosh Trophy campaign with a narrow 1-0 victory over Punjab in the opening match of the National Football Championships here on Saturday.

The tournament’s two most successful teams showed attacking intent early on, looking to grab all three points in the Group A game.

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Chances flowed on both sides fairly quickly. In the eighth minute, West Bengal goalkeeper Priyant Kumar Singh made a fine save from a Jashandeep Singh free kick. The rebound was too quick for Amarpreet Singh to capitalize as the ball rolled wide.

Punjab had not conceded a single goal in their qualifying campaign, but against West Bengal they faced their toughest test, often conceding possession in the first half, and goalkeeper Harpreet Singh been called several times.

In the 20th minute, Harpreet made his first real save of the match, parrying Basu Deb Mandi’s long-range shot to safety.

And yet, it is the Punjab who could have started in the breakaway in the lead.

A long ball from deep was misjudged by Bengal captain Monotosh Chakladar, and the ball fell on Tarun Slathia just yards from the box. Slathia recovered cleanly and charged, with only goalkeeper Priyant to beat, but fired wide.

West Bengal took control of the proceedings with greater force in the second half, retaining possession for longer periods and delivering sharper passes into midfield.

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They got their reward in the 61st minute, with the young Sajal Bag, drifting wide, beating his marker and crossing into the box. His delivery found Shubham Bhowmick perfectly placed near the penalty spot and the striker’s first volley hit inside the far post and bounced off, leaving Harpreet Singh helpless.

West Bengal could have doubled their lead four minutes later. Midfielder Tanmoy Ghosh collected the ball from 30 yards out and fired a superb shot only for a Harpreet to dive the plate over the crossbar and safely.

The stoppage gave Punjab the momentum and thrust they lacked throughout the game, and soon they started to create their own chances.

In the 75th minute, Rohit Sheikh’s chipped ball found Jaginder Singh just outside the box, facing goal. The U-21 player collected the ball perfectly then fired a curled shot, only to be denied by a diving Priyant into the West Bengal goal.

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