A gritty Uttar Pradesh team held on to a slim lead against Punjab, and moved to the second spot in the 64th Senior National hockey championship here on Friday.

In another match, Karnataka brushed aside Manipur to go to the top of the standings. The top two teams at the end of the league stage will compete in the final of the Rangaswamy Cup on May 16.

The Punjab unit fired in fits and starts and fell short.

Early in the game, Sanjeev Kumar intercepted a lazy clearance attempt by Uttar Pradesh’s Mahendra Nath. Sanjeev took the short, clear path to goal, but was foiled by goalkeeper Ashish Mishra.

Late in the first-half, Uttar Pradesh broke free. At the end of a brisk run down the flank, Abhishek Singh scooped a low pass to Prem Kumar, who banked it in. Uttar Pradesh now has four points from two matches, while Punjab (three points from two matches) will need an improved display if it is to qualify for the final.

Karnataka, meanwhile, faced no difficulty in its 4-1 victory against Manipur. Captain Deepak Bejiwad, who has proved deadly from penalty corners, took centrestage again by converting two attempts.

The results: Uttar Pradesh 1 (Prem Kumar) bt Punjab 0; Karnataka 4 (Deepak Bejiwad 2, Bijju Yirkal, Naveen Kumar) bt Manipur 1 (S. Tarun); Mumbai 7 (Roshan Keishan 2, Ravi Pareek 2, Victo Singh 2, Laxman Rao) bt Jharkhand 5 (Deepak Soreng 3, Dilbar Toppa, John Minz).

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