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Bengal pay the final penalty

For the second time, Bengal plays the lottery of penalties, despite having ample opportunities to do otherwise, writes Varun Gupta.

india Updated: Oct 25, 2006 23:36 IST

There is a reason why it is said that gambling is a dangerous addiction, concealing pitfalls, where overindulgence can spell doom. If Bengal were not aware of it, they bloody well know it now.

For the second time in a row, Bengal decided to play the lottery of penalties shootouts, despite having ample opportunities to do otherwise. And inevitably, as often is the fate of a voracious gambler, when the crunch came, they didn't possess the cards and lost all in their bid, their last bid.

Punjab benefited from Bengal's misfortune as they beat them in the penalty shootouts 5-3 to win their seventh Santosh Trophy title here on Wednesday, ensuring that paradise remains lost to Bengal.

Bengal - and especially Syed Raheem Nabi - had innumerable opportunities to seal the deal in regulation and extra-time. But they spurned it all and pulled down their shutters to go for the shootout, hoping perhaps for an encore of their win in penalties over Kerala in the semifinal.

However, the Punjab players' composure was in stark contrast to the timorous attitude of the Keralities, as they held their nerve to vanquish their celebrated adversaries.

The Punjab players - Praveen Kumar, Jaspal, Narinder, Daljit and Harpreet Singh -all converted their penalties while Suman Datta's spot-kick was acrobatically saved by Punjab goalie Kameshwar Singh.

Earlier, the occasion seemed to have gotten to both the teams as both set of players made circumspect, apprehensive starts, compromising their attacking mindsets to ensure damage limitation.

And after fifteen somnolent minutes - when even the myriad chief guests seemed to be afflicted with ennui, and the spectators followed their example - the match saw the first real chance. Daljit cleaved the Bengal defence and delivered an inch-perfect ball to Praveen, who shot over.

Bengal responded by surging through the gears to create a decent chance but Syed Raheem Nabi, as has been his wont, shot horribly wide. Then in the 33rd minute, Praveen, who was troubling his markers no end, got clean through but Shyam Mondal's tackle came off with clockwork precision to snuff out the danger.

A half-time chiding by coach Prasanta Bennerjee seemed to have worked wonders as Bengal emerged from the dug-out with renewed vigour and intent. Punjab's backline came under a pounding from the Bengal forwards.
However, Bengal's surges were repeatedly dashed against a rock in defender Harpreet Singh.

In the 80th minute, Bengal got a tremendous opportunity to steal a win but Nabi somehow contrived to touch the ball with his arm while trying to tap it into an empty goal. In extra-time, Nabi made a mockery of another through-ball and when he finally found the back of the net, in the 122nd minute, he was adjudged offside. Then came the penalties and justice was done.

First Published: Oct 25, 2006 23:36 IST