Bengal began their Santosh Trophy title defence in style as the hosts eased past a hapless Manipur side 3-0 in the Group A opener of the 72nd Santosh Trophy at Howrah Municipal Sports Complex on Monday.
Winger Sumit Das’ brace in 7thA�and 15thA�minute and striker Bidyasagar Singh’s 82ndA�strike gave the Ranjan Chowdhury coached side a comfortable win.
Bengal began the match on the front-foot and after missing a few half chances early in the match, the hosts took the lead in the 7thA�minute with Sumit finding the back of the net. He nodded from a rebound after skipper Jiten Murmu’s header from Tirthankar Sarkar’s corner bounced off the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Jiten had a golden chance to double the lead for Bengal, but the Mohammedan Sporting striker was denied by rival custodian Dinakumar Singh. However, Bengal did double their tally around the 15th-minute mark when Sumit slotted home from Bidyasagar’s pass from a close range. Meanwhile, Manipur almost pulled a goal back in the 27th minute but Ngangbam Naocha missed the target from inside box after being set up by Jiteshwor Singh.
The hosts had another chance to go further up in the 37thA�minute but Tirthankar’ Sarkar’s brilliantly taken free-kick came off the post. In the remainder of the half, both teams had few more chances but none of them could capitalize as the first half ended 2-0 in favour of the hosts.
Manipur began the second half as the stronger of the two sides. The Ratan Elangbam-coached side often asked questions to the Bengal back-line. However, Bengal defenders were also up to the task as they thwarted everything Manipur attackers threw their way. Bengal also had their moments in front of the goal but Dinakumar pulled off two brilliant saves to deny Jiten and Bidyasagar in quick succession. At the other end, Bengal keeper Ranajit Majumder also made a brilliant save to deny Jerry Plumate in the 76thA�minute.
Bengal finally managed to get their third when Bidyasagar struck a brilliant volley in the 82nd-minute mark to hit the final nail in the coffin. The hosts had few more chances towards the end but Manipur managed to not concede further as the match ended 3-0.
Bengal will now face Maharashtra on March 21A� at the same venue while Manipur will take on Chandigarh on the same day at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium.