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 October 25, 2002 | 1730 IST

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Narrow win for Bengal; Maharashtra held

Strong contenders Bengal earned full points from their opening quarter-final league fixture in the 58th National Football Championship, for the Santosh Trophy, beating Assam 2-1 in Imphal on Friday.

Dipendu Biswas and Amar Pyne scored for the 29-time champions in the first-half before Assam's Sanjiba Rongpi reduced the margin in the second session of a lacklustre encounter at the Khuman Lampak main stadium.

In the other match of the day, thrice winners Maharashtra were held 1-1 by Services.

Maharastra had a good start, scoring in the second minute as striker Altafuddin Hamid connected a cross from Anthony Fernandes, on the left flank, with his thigh.

But on resumption in the second-half, the armymen struck within three minutes through medio Pradeep Debnath, who was later named the man-of-the-match, and held on to snatch a point.

Bengal went ahead as early as the sixth minute, when the in-form striker Biswas scored off a penalty, which was awarded after referee S Syres penalised Assam's Mehtab Hussain for handling the ball inside the dreaded zone.

Pyne made the scoreline 2-0 in the 42nd minute, heading home a measured Chandan Das corner kick.

However, Assam pulled one back in the 67th minute through striker Sanjiba Rongpi, who found the target with a snap shot from the right flank, which caught the Bengal defence napping.

There was not much to shout about in the match as play was confined mostly to the midfield. Biswas, who tops the scorers' list with eight goals, was named the man-of-the-match.

Bengal next meet reigning champions Kerala, on October 27.

Tomorrow Punjab plays Karnataka at 1200 hrs IST while Manipur take on Orissa at 1400 hrs.

Complete Coverage: Santosh Trophy 2002