West Bengal punished pre-tournament favourites Kerala for their defensive errors to clinch the men’s football gold medal with a 5-0 victory at the Eka Arena TransStadia on Tuesday, October 11.
West Bengal skipper Naro Hari Shrestha scored a hattrick while Surajit Handsa and Amit Chakraborty chipped in with a goal each to help the former India striker Biswajit Bhattacharya-coached side take total control of the match before the end of the first half.
Kerala had come into the final with an all-win record in the group stage and a comfortable semifinal victory over over Karnataka and started the summit clash with confidence.
The southern outfit looked in control, though they did not have any real shot on goal to show for their effort, till West Bengal found the net against the run of play in the 16th minute.
Kerala defender Sanju G was guilty of not trapping the back pass and Surajit Handsa capitalised on the loose ball to take a shot from the right. Goalkeeper Midhun V managed to block the low strike but Robi Handsa was in position to tap in on the rebound.
Kerala then started exerting more pressure on the opposition half and had one of the best chances of the day three minutes later. Bengal goalkeeper Raja Burman’s clearance barely crossed the box and fell in Ajeesh P’s feet. But the midfielder couldn’t connect cleanly while trying to hit the ball on the first attempt.
Two minutes, Bujair Valiyattu was then guilty of hitting the ball over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box after a melee at the goal line.
West Bengal captain Naro Hari Shrestha then added to Kerala’s misery when he quickly collected the ball bouncing off the Kerala wall and unleashed a scorcher from 25-yard to beat the Kerala custodian at the left corner.
At the stroke of half-time, Sanju once again was guilty of not trapping Surajit Hansda’s cross from the left despite no Bengal striker anywhere near him inside the box. Shrestha gleefully pounced on the error to virtually seal the fate of the match.
Shrestha completed his hat-trick with easiest of header in the 52nd minute after a West Bengal counter attack. Left back Totan Das overlapped inside the Kerala box and chipped the ball over the goalkeeper for their unmarked skipper to nod it in.
Kerala had better possession thereafter but the West Bengal defence stood tall and did not allow their opponent’s put enough balls inside the box to create any quality scoring opportunities.
Defender Amit Chakraborty then rounded off the tally, finishing a short pass move from the midfield by placing the ball to the right of the advancing Kerala goalkeeper in the 85th minute.
In the bronze medal play-off, Services defeated Karnataka 4-0. Sunil B (2nd), N Sureh Metei (7th), Sreyas VG (13th) and Liton Shil (57th) scored for Services.
Final: West Bengal 5 (Robi Handsa 16th min, Naro Hari Shrestha 30th, 45+, 52nd, Amit Chakraborty 85th) bt Kerala 0
Bronze medal play-off: Service 4 (Sunil B 2nd, N Sureh Metei 7th, Sreyas VG 13th, Liton Shil 57th) bt Karnataka 0
Featured photo: 36th National Games, Gujarat 2022