Sikkim in final round of Santosh Trophy after 14 years Team outperforms defending champs and moves i

Gangtok, 07 Feb:

The Sikkim football team has qualified for the final round of the prestigious 73rd National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy 2019 after a gap of over a decade.

Sikkim topped group-B from East Zone in the qualifying round to enter the quarter-finals of the premier football tournament of the country. Sikkim had last qualified for the final round of Santosh Trophy in the year 2004 when the tournament was held in Delhi and the Sikkim team was led by Bhaichung Bhutia.

In its last qualifying match played at Bhilai in Chhattisgarh today, Sikkim played out a 1-1 draw against defending champion West Bengal.

Sonam Zangpo Bhutia scored for Sikkim in a penalty shot.

Sikkim finished the qualifying round on the top of its group on 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.

Earlier, West Bengal had defeated Bihar by solitary goal so Sikkim qualified from the group on goal difference.

Sikkim team captain, Mayal Dok Lepcha, expressed 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 shares.

He mentioned that Sikkim won a penalty shot within five minutes of the start and this was successfully converted into a goal by Sonam Zangpo Bhutia. However, West Bengal equalised in the last minute of the first half.

As per the Sikkim captain, the match was keenly contested with both teams sharing equal possession but Sikkim players missed some golden opportunities in counter-attacks otherwise the final score-line could have been different, he said.

“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 which has 32 champion’s trophies and have been finalists 41 times,” Mayal Dok adds.

He added that the morale of the team was very high at present for the quarter-final round of the tournament which is likely to start next month. The Sikkim team left for Sikkim this evening and will be arriving here on Saturday.

Sikkim Football Association joint secretary, Arjun Rai, mentioned that it was a memorable moment for Sikkim. “We will organise another rigorous camp for the State team after they return home to prepare for the final round of the tournament,” he said.

SFA president Menla Ethenpa has also congratulated the team for the outstanding performance and further expressed his best wishes for the final round.