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Bengal to fight it out with Manipur

Amitabha Das Sharma

FOOTBALL / The defending champion beats Railways 1-0

— PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR

THE HERO!Budhiram Tudu of West Bengal, who scored the winning goal against Railways.

GUWAHATI: Defending champion Bengal made it to the final, beating Railways 1-0 in the second semifinal of the 65th senior National football championship for the Santosh Trophy here on Friday. The champion will take on former champion Manipur in the final on Monday.

Striker Budhiram Tudu scored the all-important goal in the first session with a brilliant effort.

Bengal made its attacking intentions clear by employing three strikers to give a stiff challenge to the Railways' defence. Keeping Branco Vincent Cardozo and Budhiram Tudu in a striking format, the holder employed Francis Xavier in a withdrawn role to support the attack.

The Railways central defence, manned by Sundar Mandi and Akhil Rajbangshi, had to work overtime to contain opposition forays, which came up through the flanks.

Missed chances

The Bengal attacks revolved around its prolific striker Branco, who sent his first attempt, a free-kick from outside the Railway box, wide of the mark.

Branco's second attempt, on a Francis assist in the 31st minute, came off Mandi, who cut inside for a timely block. The third and the easiest of the three chances saw the Bengal attacker hesitating and delaying his attempt for the opposition defenders to come in for cover.

With Branco marked tightly, Budhiram utilised the opportunity, fetching the lead in the 39th minute. The goal came following a corner. Budhiram collected the clearance just outside the Railways box, dribbled clear of his marker Raju Singh for a sight at the goal and finished with an angular right-footer past a diving custodian V.P. Satish Kumar.

Bengal put up a good defensive act in an effort to hedge the solitary-goal lead in the second session.

Safar Sardar and captain Anupam Sarkar played the key role in holding away Railways strikers P.C. Riju and Balraj Singh, who had five and four goals against their names before the semifinal.

Though Railways tried hard for the equaliser, its offensive lacked the incisive edge. Balraj, earning two opportunities successively in the 72nd and 75th minutes, could only produce feeble efforts that were easily saved. Bengal earned three clear opportunities, but had only itself to blame for not converting.

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