Bengal’s campaign ends with a 4-2 win over Manipur

Punjab stormed into the semifinals of the 67th Santosh Trophy football championship at the Lal Bahadur Stadium here on Wednesday. It defeated Karnataka 2-0 in the last quarterfinal league match of Group D to finish with an all-win record.

Punjab’s entry into the semifinal was more or less assured after Bengal laboured to a 4-2 win over Manipur in the day’s first match.

A brace by Prem Kumar in the space of five minutes in the first half took the wind out of Karnataka’s sails. The team, which needed a big win to qualify, was simply outplayed by the aggressive Punjab side.

Karnataka was never in contention after conceding two early goals and the Punjab defence effectively marked Rajesh and Stephen. Had the Punjab strikers not been wasteful, the final scoreline would have been bigger.

To his credit, the Karnataka goalkeeper Sarath Narayana made a string of good saves in the second half to deny the Punjab forwards, Bali Gagandeep and Prem.

Prem opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a stinging left-footer [from around 22 yards] which curled away to the left of the diving Sarath.

Five minutes later, Gagandeep’s through ball split the Karnataka defence and Prem beat the goalkeeper with a low shot from close.

Gangandeep missed an easy chance to increase the lead in the 33rd minute when he shot straight at the goalkeeper in a one-to-one situation.

The trend continued in the second half with Punjab earning nearly half-a-dozen chances, but the strikers made a mess of them. The Punjab defence proved too hard for the Karnataka forwards to penetrate and the strikers floundered whenever they got the opportunity.

Patchy display

Bengal played well in patches and conceded easy goals to end its campaign on a disappointing note. The 4-2 win against Manipur proved inadequate for the side.

Bengal started on a rousing note with Jagannath Sana finding the back of the net in the fourth minute. But, it was forced to back-pedal as Manipur attacked with intent. The north-eastern side earned a few chances but was unable to cash in on the opportunities.

Bengal’s second goal came against the run of play in the 17th minute through Nabin Hela.

Snehasis Dutta made it 3-0 in the 57th minute, scoring off a rebound after Manipur goalkeeper had blocked the first shot from Jagannath Sana.

As Bengal pressed hard for more goals, Manipur pulled one back through Prem Kumar Meitei in the 80th minute. Meitei struck again in injury time but Hela scored off a goalmouth melee just before the final whistle to complete the tally.

The results (Group D quarterfinal league):

Punjab 2 (Prem Kumar 11 & 16) bt Karnataka 0.

Bengal 4 (Jagannath Sana 4, Nabin Hela 17 & 90, Snehasis Dutta 57) bt Manipur 2 (Prem Kumar Meiti 80 & 90).

Final standings (read as played, won, lost, draw, goals for, goals against, points): Punjab 3-3-0-0-9-3-9, Bengal 3-2-1-0-8-6-6, Karnataka 3-1-2-0-3-4-3, Manipur 3-0-3-0-3-11-0.

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