Goa exorcised the ghosts of the past by pulling off a 4-2 victory against nemesis Bengal via the penalty shootout following a goalless 120 minutes in the final of the 63rd National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy in Chennai on Sunday.
It was Goa's first win against Bengal in six meetings in the final and their fifth title triumph and fourth outright (they were joint-winners once).
After a barren 90 minutes and half-hour of extra-time period leading to the penalty shootout, Climax Lawrence, Beevan D'Mello, John Charles Dias and Fulganco Cardozo converted for Goa whose captain Felix D'Souza brought off two grand saves as Bengal were successful with only two attempts by Snehashish Chakraborty and Pachau Lalam Puia.
It was another heart break for Bengal who last won the trophy for the 29th time 10 years ago while Goa regained the cup after a lapse of three years.
Goan skipper D'Souza thus came through the tournament without conceding a goal during regulation period to emulate the feat of the legendary state-mate Bramhanand some three decades ago as he blocked shots from inexperienced Safar Sardar and Lalkamal Bhowmick while Nicholas Rodrigues missed for Goa.
Bengal had to blame themselves for the defeat after missing scoring chances galore while Goa, playing their eighth match in three weeks, looked more likely to score though they too fumbled at the finish.
Tamil Nadu striker Muthu was adjudged Player of the tournament while Goa received the Fair Play trophy.
Bengal showed a lot of urgency at the start and had the Goans under pressure with a series of raids as they intelligently moved the ball around from flank to flank to keep the defenders guessing.
However, despite the early dominance, Bengal drew blank at the finish where their forwards were found wanting in positioning and also anticipating the stream of crosses that rained in from the wings.
It was a while before the Goans got their act together and in fact looked more dangerous when on the move. They used the width of the field to stretch the Bengal defence that just about managed to avert danger, but did not inspire confidence with their marking.
Meanwhile, Marcus Mascarenhas, the livewire in the Goan ranks, kept the team move on the move with some good promptings from the midfield and then following up on the attacks. Undoubtedly, he along with his counterpart Pachau Lalam Puia were the two players who caught most of the attention.
The "action" at the goalmouth were restricted a few headers and some stray shots at the target. So much so that neither goalkeeper was tested and the blank scorecard at half-time was indeed no surprise.
After the lemon break, it was Goa who took the initiative and the Bengal goal looked certain to fall at any moment. A few close shaves kept Bengal in the game, but their defending left a lot to be desired.
The Goan forwards, enjoying a lot of space in the Bengal box, were guilty wasting a couple of great scoring chances that should have been put away without much ado.
The repeatedly reprieved Bengal nearly struck on a counter-attack when Puia streaked down the left flank, crossed to Snehashish Chakraborty who in turn passed to Subho Kumar. With the Goan defence in disarray, Subho shot rather weakly across the goalmouth.
At the other end, the Goans nearly scored when Wilton Gomes crossed from the right after being put through by Beevan D'Mellow. The cross could not have been any better, but Marcus Mascarenhas was a step slow to get to it as the ball streaked across the goalmouth.
These were the two occasions when the rivals came closest to scoring a goal in the entire match that eventually spilled into 30 minutes of extra time period.
Early in the extra-time, the Goans nearly scored when D'Mello's header narrowly missed target following a long, defence splitting cross lob from Mahesh Gawli. Indeed, the Bengal defence was looking shakier than before as Goa stepped up pace and pressure.
Bengal brought in Karthik Kisku for Gouranga Biswas to add a pair of fresh legs to the forwardline and the change had the desired effect. Karthik came up with a couple of strong runs on the right flank and even set up Puia with a precise cross. But an indecisive Puia shot wide of the goal.
In the dying moments, Goa survived some anxious moments and it took all of goalkeeper and skipper Felix D'Souza's courage and reflexes to bring off a couple of saves to take the game into a penalty shootout.