Where cultures in the world’s most populous sport is paramount, within the country, West Bengal and Goa are the cradles nursing football. As such, when the two States are pitted against each other in the historic Santosh Trophy clash one can expect a well-contested match between the arch rivals.
As on record, West Bengal have won the Santosh Trophy for a record 31 times while, their counterparts, hosting this edition have won the National Football Championship on five occasions, sharing the Trophy once with the side from the West.
In the ongoing Santosh Trophy final round played in the State, these two sides are going into their 4 pm clash on Thursday at GMC Stadium, Bambolim, in a battle of supremacy.
On their part, the visiting side have been made to work hard to register wins against Chandigarh with a last-gasp winner in Navelim on the opening day and made to toil equally hard to register a 2-1 win against reigning Champions Services on Wednesday at Bambolim. On the other hand, hosts Goa have played a lone match against Meghalaya on Sunday at Bambolim and secured a fighting 2-1 win.
Speaking to The Goan ahead of their second group fixture on Thursday, Goa gaffer Mateus Costa had this to say.
Conceding that in their match against the side from the North East, Goa did not play particularly well he acknowledged on the areas for improvement.
“We have to improve inside the box in both halves, in our defense and in the finishing as well. The goal that we allowed was unwarranted for and Enester Malngiang (Meghalaya) did well to convert with a brilliant free-kick. The defender that got a foul, such a hiccup we look at averting technically in our coming games. We also have to be patient to deliver results,” he added.
Talking of the team losing its momentum after being 2-0 up against Meghalaya, conceding a goal soon after and somehow managing to hold on to win, he stated that in such compact tournaments incidents as these occur. “Every team here wants to win; once they lose they have the pressure of bowing out. In the case of Meghalaya it was no different and they put in every effort to put pressure on us to strive for a comeback and I am happy our boys did a good job to hold on to do the lead,” a happy coach stated.
On playing the seasoned Peter Carvalho, a designated midfielder in defense he had an explanation to offer. “I have seen Peter play for the last 15 years for sides like Dempo FC and FC Bardez, and more recently he has played in defense for the relatively new latter outfit. With our stopper back, Leny Pereira out for our last game due to a slight injury, we started with Peter Carvalho in defense and he did a commendable job and he will continue in the role while Leny would need more time to recover,” Costa revealed.
Talking of their formidable opposition, Costa said that they have to play to their potential to emerge the better side against West Bengal who has won back-to-back games. “They defeated defending champions Services on Wednesday and are a tough opponent to beat. We have to stick to our plans like we did against Meghalaya and try to improve with every passing match,” Costa plainly said.
Acknowledging having watched West Bengal play in their last game, he spoke highly of their opposition’s balance.
“It is a well-balanced side with a sound defense, good mid-field and a fine striker in Moirangthem Basanta Singh. Their confidence would be very high after winning both their games and it is always a challenge playing against them,” he concurred.
West Bengal Coach, Mridul Bannerjee is no stranger to Goan football scene and a very experienced gaffer himself.
Apart from a short stint with local outfit Vasco SC, he has rendered his coaching services with Mohun Bagan and West Bengal in the I-League.
Not to take any side lightly in competition, Bannerjee opines that Goa is a very good team and being the hosts would make them all the more formidable an opponent.
Compounded with injuries, he mentions that four of his key players would not be available for the Thursday clash. Rana Gharami (defender), Moirangthem Basant Singh (attacking midfielder), Manvir Singh (striker) and Mumtaz Akhtar
(central midfielder) are all