Kolkata: Host Bengal pulled off a spectacular 5-4 (1-1) victory over their last year’s nemesis Goa via penalty shootout and entered final of 64th National Football
Championship for Santosh Trophy at the flood-lit Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Friday.
Although holders Goa started their title defence in a positive manner, taking a 20th minute lead by Milagres Gonsalves, Bengal made a comeback with Robin Singh’s goal in the 83rd minute as the regulation 90 minutes saw 1-1 stalemate.
The half-an-hour extra-time also went goalless leading to the shootout.
Bengal missed their first attempt with Goa custodian and captain Felix D’Souza saving Rajiv Ghosh’s effort as the defending champions took 1-0 lead in the penalty shootout.
But Bengal did not give up with goalkeeper Abhra Mondal, playing in his first match, remained undeterred to hand Bengal a fabulous win.
In the shootout, Godwin Franco, Cavin Lobo and Adil Khan gave Goa a superb 3-0 lead converting the first three attempts but they fumbled in their last two tries and made a last-four exit.
In the fourth attempt, John Dias hit the post, while Bengal goalkeeper Mondal saved Nicolas Rodrigues fifth attempt for the victory.
Having fired blank in their first try by Rajiv, Bengal scored from the spot through Snehashish Chakraborty, Souvik Chakraborty, Sheikh Azim and Denson Devadas for a 4-3 win in the shootout.
The 29-time champion Bengal had bowed to the mighty Goans in the summit clash last year in Chennai in a similar fashion - via penalty shootout - to remain content with the runners-up trophy.
With Bengal already missing their key striker Shankar Oraon, the home side got a rude jolt when their makeshift forward Nilendra Dewan was ruled out in the seventh minute.
In a goalmouth tackle with Denzil Branco, Dewan sustained an injury as he had to be replaced by Robin.
Bengal struggled badly up front with the erratic duo of Tariff Ahmed and Robin making things more difficult.
In Bengal’s missed attempts, Goa had an opportunity in the 20th minute as they took the lead to begin their title-defence on a positive manner.
Milagres put his name in the scorebook, giving Goa the lead from a Godwin Franco corner.
Peter Carvalho got hold of the corner in an aerial battle as Milagres headed it home with Bengal defence in an disarray.
Bengal received their best chance in the 45th minute when an unmarked Ahmed failed to head in front of an open net from a free-kick by Jayanta Sen.
In the 47th minute, Bengal almost conceded one but it substitute Cavin Lobo missed the target much to the home team’s delight.
From thereon, it was a case of missed passes and missed chances as the forward duo of Ahmed and Robin made a mockery of Bengal’s attack, muffing up at least two easy chances.
Chakraborty and Jayanta Sen were impressive in giving the supply but every time a poor coordination from Robin and Ahmed did not help in bringing Bengal’s equaliser.
But it was the robust Robin who made amended for his poor form, bringing Bengal back on track with the equaliser seven minutes before the final whistle.
Robin scored from a left side attack initiated by R Dhanarajan as the tall striker sneaked through Goan defence to make it 1-1 and take the match to extra-time, giving Bengal hope.
The champions soon came under a lot of pressure with the Shabbir Ali boys pressurising with an all-out attack.
Bengal had a couple of chances but they could not score the winner in the 120 minutes of play with 1-1 stalemate prevailing.