Kolkata, Mar 19 (PTI) Bengal began their title defence with a 3-0 blanking of Manipur, while Kerala hammered Chandigarh 5-1 on the opening day of the national football championship for the 72nd Santosh Trophy here today.

Bengal, the record 32 times champions, constantly pressed on the attack as Sumit Das struck a double (sixth and 15th minutes) to give them a 2-0 lead at the break in a display of sheer dominance at the Howrah Stadium.

Das scored off a corner from the rebound to open his account, while he added a second in nine minutes, heading home a Bidyasagar Singh’s cross.

Bidyasagar sealed the issue for Bengal with a 82nd minute goal in what was a poor clearance from Manipur defence. The Bengal midfielder capitalised on a brilliant work by Sujay Dutta as his shot found the back of the net.

Bengal goalkeeper Ranojit Majumdar should also be given credit for his stellar show under the bar as he thwarted Manipur’s counter attacks to ensure a clean slate for his side.

In the other group A fixture of the day, Jithin MS struck a brace (11th and 51st) and assisted in two other goals as five-time champions Kerala toyed Chandigarh’s defence for a thumping 5-1 win at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium.

Sajith Poulose struck in the 18th minute, while the other two goals for Kerala were scored by Afdal V K (49th) and substitute Sreekuttan V S (77th).

Vishal Sharma (88th) was the lone scorer for Chandigarh.

Starting with 4-4-2 formation, the southern outfit broke the deadlock when Seesan S sent a through ball for right winger Jithin. The U-21 player received the ball at the edge of the box and found the back of the net comfortably.

Poulose found the back of the net from Jithin’s low cross from the right flank to double their lead.

Hungry for more goals, Kerala utilised their wings brilliantly with Jithin leading the side’s attack and piled on Chandigarh’s misery in the second half.

Brought in the 65th minute in place of Jithin, Sreekuttan hammered the final nail in Chandigarh’s coffin when his shot hit the far post and went in.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.