Punjab began their quarterfinal league in style, blanking Manipur 3-0 in a Group B match of the 67th Santosh Trophy at Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here on Saturday. Rohit, Bali Gagandeep and Sukhjit Singh scored for the winners.
The deadlock was broken in the eighth minute when midfielder Taranjit Singh sent a pass to Rohit, who was left unmarked in the box. Before the defenders and goalkeeper could comprehend the plot, Rohit’s shot pierced into the right corner of the net. After drawing first blood, Punjab’s forwards and midfielders exerted continuous pressure on the Manipuri defence.
In the 18th minute, Bali Gagandeep was close to increasing the lead but an alert goalkeeper saved it. Except for a few saves, Manipur goalkeeper M Raj Singh had an ordinary outing. Bali made it 2-0 in the 34th minute. Sajandeep Singh’s long aerial ball to the left flank found Bali and he produced a curling cross that gave a slip to the custodian and landed into the corner of the net in the far post.
The goalie misjudged the flight of the ball and instead of diving to his left, he let the ball in thinking it was too wide. When the sides went for the break, it looked like Manipur would fight back in the second half. However, it did not happen and Punjab put the issue beyond doubt in the 75th minute when Sukhjit headed home a corner.
In the other quarterfinal match in Group D, Nabin Hela’s solitary goal in the 32nd minute helped West Bengal beat Karnataka 1-0. On Sunday, Maharashtra face Goa, while Jharkhand take on Tamil Nadu.