Bambolim (Goa): Hosts Goa and Bengal played out a goalless draw in a Group A Santosh Trophy final round tie here on Thursday.
Goa, the stronger of the two sides on paper, never really took off. Their build up play wasn't really of the highest standard and only a strong second half performance ensured that they still look to be one of the two favorites to qualify from the group.
The first half saw both teams enjoy almost equal possession. Bengal required a mistake from Goa goalkeeper Agnelo Gomes to make their first real foray into the Goan defense.
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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 sailed over the bar after the Bengal defense failed to clear a Liston Colaco free-kick.
The second half started with much more purpose, Goa being the more adventurous of the two teams.
Colaco's free-kick three minutes after the restart went straight to Bengal goalkeeper Sankar Roy. Goa custodian Agnelo then came to his team's rescue, saving twice from close range, first from a shot by Manvir Singh and then from an attempt by 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, Colaco and Brian Mascarenhas on the left creating havoc with their crosses, runs and through balls leaving the Bengal defense 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 goalkeeper, 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 semifinals alive.
Francis Zountlunga converted the spot kick in the eighth minute to script Services' first win of the tournament. Services had lost to Bengal 0-1 in their first game.