In the end the 71st National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy 2017 match turned out to be a damp squib and never really reached the level of expected proportions. Goa and West Bengal, both showed sporadic glimpses of brilliance before settling for a goalless draw at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim. Goa, the stronger of the two sides on paper never really took off, their build up play wasn’t really of the highest standards and only a strong second half performance ensured that they still look one of the two favourites to qualify from Group A.
The first half saw both teams enjoy almost equal possession. Midfield possession was the order of the day with both teams hardly creating any chances. Bengal required a mistake from Goa goalkeeper Agnelo Gomes to make their first real foray into the Goan defence. An innocuous looking back header from Melvin Lobo was spilled by Agnelo in the 11th minute. The ball fell at the feet of Bengal forward Moirangthem Basanta Singh, however with the goalkeeper way off his line and only the last man Peter Carvalho to beat , he slammed his shot wide of the post.
Goa’s only clear chance in the first half came in the 39th minute when young Leander D’Cunha’s shot sailing over the bar after the Bengal defence failed to clear a Liston Colaco free kick.
The second half started with much purpose, Goa being the more adventurous of the two teams. Liston Colaco’s free kick three minutes after the restart went straight to the keeper. Goa’s keeper then came to his sides rescue saving twice from close range, first from a shot off Manvir Singh and then from a shot off Debasis Pradshan who smashed a pile driver from the right.
Bengal had their best chance in the 70th minute when Shaikhom Ronald Singh’s cross from the left went just above the head of Manvir Singh. It was all Goa in the last twenty minutes, Cajetan Fernandes, Liston Colaco and Brian Mascarenhas from the left creating havoc with their crosses, runs and through balls leaving the Bengal defence at sixes and sevens. However apart from a weak effort from Cajetan who suffered a brain fade when he entered the box, and a free kick towards the end that needed a double save from the Bengal keeper Sankar Roy, Goa never came close to putting the ball in the back of the net.
Meanwhile in Vasco, defending champions Services scored through a penalty to earn a 1-0 win over Chandigarh and keep their chances of qualifying for the semis alive. Francis Zountlunga converted the spot kick in the 8th minute to script Services’ first win of the tournament.
Kerala v Punjab (GMC Stadium Bambolim, 16.00 IST)
Maharashtra v Railways (Tilak Maidan, 16.00 IST)