GANGTOK, 07 Feb: Sikkim football team has qualified for the final round of the prestigious 73rdNational Football Championship for Santosh Trophy 2019 after a gap of over a decade. Sikkim has topped the group B from East Zone in the qualifying round to enter into the quarter-final round of the premier football tournament of the country. Sikkim had qualified for the final round of Santosh Trophy last time in year 2004 at Delhi.
In its last qualifying match played at Bhilai in Chhattisgarh on Thursday, Sikkim has played 1-1 draw against the defending champion, West Bengal. Sonam Zangpo Bhutia has scored a goal for Sikkim in a penalty shot.
Sikkim finished the qualifying round on the top in the goal difference with a win and a draw. Sikkim was placed in group B of East Zone along with West Bengal and Bihar in the qualifying round of the tournament. Sikkim outplayed Bihar 4-1 in the first match and played 1-1 draw against West Bengal. As West Bengal defeated Bihar by solitary goal, so Sikkim has been qualified from the group in the goal difference.
Sikkim team captain, Mayal Dok Lepcha expressed his immense happiness and satisfaction on qualifying for the final knock-out stage of the tournament. “A draw can take us to the quarter-final round but it was must win match for West Bengal. So, as per our preset strategy we played defensive and made counter-attacks from the start,” he stated. He mentioned that Sikkim got a penalty shot within five minutes of the start of the match for a foul, which was successfully converted into the goal by Sonam Zangpo Bhutia. However, West Bengal equalised the scorline in the last minute of the first half.
As per Sikkim team captain the match was equally played with equal possession of the ball but Sikkim players missed some golden opportunities in the counter attacks otherwise final score-line could be different.
“It is a very proud and happy moment for us to qualify for the final round of Santosh Trophy after a gap of over a decade. It is also a very memorable moment to eliminate the most successful team in Santosh Trophy, West Bengal with 32 times champion’s trophies and finalists for 41 times, Mr Lepcha expressed. He added that the morale of the team was very high to give its best in the quarter-final of the tournament, which was likely to start next month. Sikkim team has left for Sikkim this evening and will be reaching on Saturday.
Sikkim Football Association joint secretary, Arjun Rai mentioned that it was a memorable moment on Sikkim gets qualified for the final round of Santosh Trophy. He mentioned that Sikkim had qualified in the final round last time in 2004 at Delhi, which was led by Bhaichung Bhutia. He stated that the team as played as per the expectation of the selection committee. “We will organise another rigorous camp for the State team after they reach home to prepare for the final round of the tournament,” he said.
SFA president Menla Ethenpa has also congratulated the team members for their outstanding performance and further expressed his best wishes for the final round.
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